As distribution of COVID-19 vaccines gets underway, medical experts are emphasizing that people should continue to stay home for the winter holidays and not celebrate with those outside their own households.
Recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) underscores that travel and gatherings with others increase the chances of contracting COVID-19. There have been more than 16 million cases of the coronavirus in the U.S. and more than 300,000 people have died.
But medical experts like Brian Castrucci, an epidemiologist and president of the de Beaumont Foundation, an organization devoted to strengthening public health in communities, worry that news of the vaccine's rollout could prompt people to lower their guard when it comes to preventing the spread of the coronavirus.
"It is a great achievement that we have the vaccine,” says Castrucci, who often uses a sports analogy to help people understand that they need to remain vigilant. “Don't celebrate before the game is over. If you do, you could end up losing the game."
Though rollout of the coronavirus vaccine has begun, health care workers and long-term care residents are first in line for the vaccine, which requires two doses. It will be many months before the majority of the population has access. That's why it's even more important for people to continue to take precautions around masking, social distancing and travel, says Tom Kenyon, an epidemiologist, a former director of the CDC Center for Global Health and now the chief health officer for Project HOPE, a global health and humanitarian relief organization.
"The virus is everywhere. This is a very precarious time,” says Kenyon. “We know that at present, most transmission is actually happening from these small gatherings.”