Arthritis & COVID Vaccines: What Can You Do Now That You’re Vaccinated?

You’re now fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Find out what you can do safely now in light of the delta variant.

Updated 8/11/21

1. Congrats! You’re Fully Vaccinated. Now What?
If it’s been two weeks or more since your last COVID-19 vaccination — either a second Moderna or Pfizer dose or a single Johnson & Johnson shot — you’re considered fully vaccinated. But while your body has been busy building a defense against COVID, it’s also dealing with your arthritis. That means your vaccine response could be different than other healthy adults. Being immunocompromised or taking certain medications makes you more prone to infections. Find out what you can do safely once you’ve been fully vaccinated and what you should still avoid — especially in light of the delta variant.
2. Can you ditch the mask?
With the advent of the delta variant, masks have once again become a hot topic, and while it’s true that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says fully vaccinated people can forgo masks outdoors, there are still times masking up is best. If your community has a high rate of infection, you should continue to mask indoors and in crowded places, even outdoors. For people with arthritis, your immune system could be weakened if you’re experiencing a flare or taking certain medications, so it’s best to continue wearing your mask when you are around people outside your household, even outdoors.
3. Can you gather with friends?
People with arthritis often take medications that weaken their immune system. That means that even when you are fully vaccinated, you could be at higher risk of contracting a breakthrough case of COVID. Still, it’s important to be able to see family and friends you’ve been missing. If everyone in the group is vaccinated, the chances of contracting COVID-19 are low, however, less is known about the delta variant. If coronavirus case numbers in your area are also low, you should feel safe visiting with vaccinated friends, but be sure to "mask up" when indoors and in outdoor crowded spaces. And make sure everyone follows the two-week waiting period after the full vaccination schedule.
4. Should you hit the beach?
Nothing says summer like the sand and surf. If you’ve spent the winter dreaming about a vacation, you’re in luck. Now that you’re fully vaccinated, you should be able to safely hit the beach this summer. Of course, you’ll want to take precautions. Think about renting a private home instead of booking a hotel room. Try bringing groceries with you to avoid crowds at popular stores or dining venues. Consider dining off hours and only at outdoor venues. With people flocking to beaches from all around the country, it’s difficult to know who’s been vaccinated. So, it’s better to keep your distance and stay safe and wear a mask indoors and in crowds outdoors.
5. Could you attend a concert or outdoor festival?
For most people with arthritis, being fully vaccinated provides protection against COVID-19 virus. How much protection you have is unknown due to your disease or immunosuppressive medications you take and the delta variant adds another level of risk. The best advice for fully vaccinated people with inflammatory arthritis is to limit outdoor gatherings with large crowds and to always wear a mask when you’re in close proximity to people outside your household. So yes, you can attend outdoor events, but take precautions and don't forget to bring your vaccination card to the show. Many venues are requiring proof of vaccination before entering. Always remember that you may be around unvaccinated people. Wear a mask (double masking is recommended), keep your distance and have an exit strategy if the crowd level becomes too much.
6. Can you hug a friend or grandchild?
Nothing beats a hug from someone you love. If you’ve spent the pandemic dreaming about holding your grandbaby or hugging your bestie, you’re in luck — well, maybe! If you are finally getting to see a friend who is also fully vaccinated, then the answer is YES! You can welcome your friend with open arms. However, since all children are not yet vaccinated, you’ll want to weigh the risks before snuggling the grandkids. If the children in your life are young and do not attend school, they’re less likely to be carriers of the virus. Older grandkids who attend school or participate in extracurricular activities may pose a greater risk. So, use fist bumps, elbow bumps and blow kisses, instead, if they have not been vaccinated.
7. Should you go on a plane?
Airline travel is almost back to pre-pandemic levels, and that means lots of crowds. While masks are still mandatory on all planes, airlines have begun relaxing their capacity limits and popular flights could be quite crowded. For healthy, vaccinated adults, experts say flying poses minimal risks. But for people with arthritis or who are on immune suppressing medication, crowded planes and airports may be too risky. If you must fly, try to book flights during unpopular times and avoid major travel days to limit your exposure. You definitely want to double mask when you travel and avoid traveling to areas with high infection rates.
8. Is eating inside a restaurant safe?
Everyone has missed dining at their favorite restaurants during the pandemic. But experts agree that eating indoors is still one of the riskier activities, even for fully vaccinated people. If your community has a low number of cases and a high percentage of vaccinated people, it’s safer to take the chance than if you live in an area with high infection numbers and low vaccination rates. For now, it’s best to eat outdoors where there is better ventilation. You should avoid indoor bars and any crowded indoor events for now.
9. Can you get a massage?
Massage is a great way to ease arthritis pain and stress. If you’re like many people, you’ve put this therapy on hold during the pandemic. While no indoor activity is without risks, returning to massage once you’re fully vaccinated should be safe. If both you and your therapist wear masks and are vaccinated, the chances of infection are small.
10. What’s the bottom line?
Fully vaccinated adults are at low risk for contracting COVID-19 and the delta variant, but it’s not impossible. For people with arthritis, research shows that the rate of infection could be higher than the general population. That’s because your body is already working hard to keep your disease in check. For people on certain arthritis medications or with certain forms of arthritis, the risk of a breakthrough infection is even greater. To find out if you are at greater risk, talk to your doctor.
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