A vaccinated grandmother who received a medical prescription to hug her granddaughter for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began described the embrace as an "out-of-body experience."
Evelyn Shaw's daughters Jessica Shaw and Laura Shaw Frank shared a video of their mom sobbing while hugging her granddaughter, along with a photo of the March 1 prescription which read, "You are allowed to hug your granddaughter." Jessica tweeted, "First hug she’s had in a year. Thank you to all the scientists and doctors who made this happen!"
The New York grandmother, who had received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, told CNN that although her granddaughter was also fully vaccinated, she was hesitant to let her inside her home "because I was stuck in COVID land." Of the hug, she said, "It was blissful, it was wonderful and it was something I'm going to remember for the rest of my life."
"Once we all have our vaccines, we're all going to need to transition from the fear that we have lived with for so long," she said. Her granddaughter also said that hugging for the first time in so long, felt a bit "weird."
"I'm bawling," someone tweeted in response to the viral post. "I got to hug my mom for the first time in 51 weeks!" another wrote, sharing a photo of herself hugging her great-grandson. "I can't stop watching this," someone else wrote. "Frame that prescription."
Countless videos of families reuniting with grandparents are gaining internet traction. The hugs are hard-won, after a year of social distancing that had families in Nebraska, California, Illinois and Canada creating "hugging" walls, homemade barriers that allowed grandparents to hug their grandparents with lesser risk of COVID-19 transmission. One grandmother in New Jersey even dressed in a unicorn costume in order to embrace her grandchildren.
This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published new recommendations for fully vaccinated people that allow physical contact, notably grandparents. Fully vaccinated people (those who pass the two-week mark after their second dose of vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna or their single-dose shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine) can now visit with each other indoors without wearing face masks or practicing social distancing. They can also visit unvaccinated people from a single household who are "low-risk for severe COVID-19 disease" indoors, without masks or social distancing. (Meaning, those without medical conditions like cancer, Down Syndrome, genetic disorders and more, which the CDC says places them at increased risk for "developing severe illness from COVID-19.")
"For example, fully vaccinated grandparents can visit indoors with their unvaccinated healthy daughter and her healthy children without wearing masks or physical distancing, provided none of the unvaccinated family members are at risk of severe COVID-19," the CDC noted. The organization said vaccinated folks are not required to test for COVID-19 or quarantine if they're exposed to the virus, as long as they're asymptomatic, however in public, those people should still wear face masks, socially distance and get tested if they develop COVID-19 symptoms.
However, in a March 8 scientific brief, the CDC noted, "The risks of SARS-CoV-2 infection in fully vaccinated people cannot be completely eliminated as long as there is continued community transmission of the virus" and that "vaccinated people could potentially still get COVID-19 and spread it to others." Still, it acknowledges that "the benefits of relaxing some measures such as quarantine requirements and reducing social isolation may outweigh the residual risk of fully vaccinated people becoming ill with COVID-19 or transmitting the virus to others."
This week, Johns Hopkins University recreated Evelyn's doctor's note addressed to a "fully vaccinated grandparent" with the prescription, "You can safely hug your grandkids." While according to Google Trends, the search terms “Can I hug my grandchildren after vaccine” and “CDC grandparents” increased by 3,400 percent and 2,350 percent over the previous day, respectively.
The CDC says children are generally "less affected" by COVID-19 than grownups, although kids can test positive and those with underlying medical conditions are at higher risk for developing severe illness from the virus. There is also a rare illness called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) that's been associated with children who tested positive for COVID-19.
There is no vaccine currently developed for children (although Modern and Pfizer have enrolled children older than 12 in clinical trials). On Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told Face the Nation, "We project that high school students will very likely be able to be vaccinated by the fall term, maybe not the very first day, but certainly in the early part of the fall for that fall educational term. Elementary school kids, we're doing what's called age de-escalation studies to make sure it's safe and immunogenic in them. They likely will be able to get vaccinated by the very first quarter of 2022."
Dr. Gregory Poland, head of the Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research Group, tells Yahoo Life that the CDC's specification for "healthy" children allowed to visit grandparents is a tough pill for kids with underlying health conditions who will miss out on the benefits of hugging grandparents. "Think of that cost for them."
However, the CDC's new recommendations weigh the need for human connection against science-based evidence about the transmission of COVID-19 and the mental health risks from long-term isolation. "What they're saying is, 'What are the risks of someone getting seriously ill or dying from COVID-19 versus the risks of dying from a mental health standpoint?'" Dr. Poland adds, "And frankly, they're illustrating the rewards of being vaccinated and how we get back to normalcy."
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