The next day, I called Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency room physician, public health expert and visiting professor at George Washington University.
I asked her what those of us who might be swiping on the apps should think if we come across someone who advertises that they have been vaccinated.
First, Wen gave me the reality check I expected, and kind of deserved.
“It’s not a free pass,” she said. “We don’t know whether ‘if’ somebody is vaccinated means they will no longer be a carrier of coronavirus. They may still be able to infect you even if they are safe from coronavirus themselves.”
Studies have shown that the Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, the three vaccines currently available in the U.S. under emergency use authorizations, significantly reduce covid symptoms and are effective in preventing hospitalizations and death from the disease. But it’s still possible for those who are vaccinated to get sick with covid. And research is pending on how great the risk is that those who are vaccinated can carry the virus and pass it on to others.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a recent White House covid-19 press briefing that early studies from Spain and Israel indicate vaccination seems to lead to lower viral loads in the body, which can mean a fully inoculated person is less likely to pass covid on to someone else. But questions remain about transmissibility.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that those who are vaccinated continue to wear masks and maintain physical distance as the vaccine rollout proceeds. Public health experts also point to the emerging covid variants that are finding a foothold in the U.S. The available vaccines appear to be less effective against the variants, another reason for people to be vigilant.
Wen said if two unvaccinated parties who match on a dating app want to meet up, they should take the precautions we’ve heard about since the beginning of the pandemic: meet outdoors, keep 6 feet apart and ask about your favorite book from behind a face-fitting mask.
If both unvaccinated people eventually want to meet indoors, she added, and they both live alone, they could. But it is not exactly a romantic process. They could quarantine for several days. Then both could get a covid test and, as long as they both have negative results, meet up.
However, if you’re like me and live with roommates, and especially if your new paramour also lives with others, too, then that adds more layers of complications.