Mercedes Carnethon, the vice chairwoman of research in the department of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, however, says that she would be comfortable attending a wedding if she were vaccinated, even if others hadn’t had the vaccine yet. It’s a different story for her children, though.
“Children under 16 are not eligible to be vaccinated,” Dr. Carnethon said of current guidelines. “If you allow unvaccinated people in, you are putting other people at risk.”
Currently more than 150 million people — almost half the population — are eligible to be vaccinated. But each state makes the final decision about who goes first. The nation’s 21 million health care workers and three million residents of long-term care facilities were the first to qualify. In mid-January, federal officials urged all states to open up eligibility to everyone 65 and older and to adults of any age with medical conditions that put them at high risk of becoming seriously ill or dying from Covid-19. Adults in the general population are at the back of the line. If federal and state health officials can clear up bottlenecks in vaccine distribution, everyone 16 and older will become eligible as early as this spring or early summer. The vaccine hasn’t been approved in children, although studies are underway. It may be months before a vaccine is available for anyone under the age of 16. Go to your state health website for up-to-date information on vaccination policies in your area
You should not have to pay anything out of pocket to get the vaccine, although you will be asked for insurance information. If you don’t have insurance, you should still be given the vaccine at no charge. Congress passed legislation this spring that bars insurers from applying any cost sharing, such as a co-payment or deductible. It layered on additional protections barring pharmacies, doctors and hospitals from billing patients, including those who are uninsured. Even so, health experts do worry that patients might stumble into loopholes that leave them vulnerable to surprise bills. This could happen to those who are charged a doctor visit fee along with their vaccine, or Americans who have certain types of health coverage that do not fall under the new rules. If you get your vaccine from a doctor’s office or urgent care clinic, talk to them about potential hidden charges. To be sure you won’t get a surprise bill, the best bet is to get your vaccine at a health department vaccination site or a local pharmacy once the shots become more widely available.
That is to be determined. It’s possible that Covid-19 vaccinations will become an annual event, just like the flu shot. Or it may be that the benefits of the vaccine last longer than a year. We have to wait to see how durable the protection from the vaccines is. To determine this, researchers are going to be tracking vaccinated people to look for “breakthrough cases” — those people who get sick with Covid-19 despite vaccination. That is a sign of weakening protection and will give researchers clues about how long the vaccine lasts. They will also be monitoring levels of antibodies and T cells in the blood of vaccinated people to determine whether and when a booster shot might be needed. It’s conceivable that people may need boosters every few months, once a year or only every few years. It’s just a matter of waiting for the data.
Still, as the vaccine becomes more widely available, it may become more common to see requests or requirements for people to be vaccinated before participating in events, said Dr. Lisa Maragakis, the senior director of infection prevention at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. It’s also important to remember that vaccination isn’t a substitution for infection prevention measures such as masking and physical distancing, Dr. Maragakis said.
“Vaccination primarily protects the individual who is vaccinated, but we do not yet know the extent to which vaccination will reduce a person’s ability to carry and transmit the virus to others,” she said.
Right now, it’s hard to predict when the pandemic will end — or when we’ll be able to return to group celebrations sans worries about vaccines or masks, Dr. Maragakis said.
Until then, weddings should remain small.
Jessica Kolb, a photographer in Downers Grove, Ill., said she wouldn’t go to any wedding requiring vaccines. “I have zero plans to get this vaccine until there’s more data,” Ms. Kolb said, adding that her niece is getting married this fall, and if she requires guests be vaccinated, she simply won’t go.