We now have two different approved vaccines against COVID-19 in use, each with greater than 90 percent efficacy. Frontline medical and essential workers are first in line for the twin doses, but we have every incentive to get our own as soon as it's available. True herd immunity, experts believe, should come when around 70 percent of the American public has received the vaccine.
Epidemiologists are quick to remind us that getting the double shot protecting against COVID is not an automatic "go back to pre-pandemic life" permission slip. Health reporters at the New York Times have put together some reminders about when we can begin leaving our precautions behind. The answer, with all the data we have, is not for a while.
Full vaccination should be in effect a week or two after you've received the second dose. Even then, you should still be masking up and taking care to socially distance. While the COVID vaccines can help prevent your own illness, we don't yet know if vaccinated people can still transmit the disease. That means continuing to avoid crowds or large gatherings too, especially those where you don't know how many people have received the vaccine yet.
When a majority in your community are vaccinated, expect those crowded scenarios (i.e., eating indoors at restaurants or shopping) to become safer. Travel might also be more feasible too. If you're hoping to hug a friend, go to a concert, or stop wearing a mask all the time, though, that's probably not in the cards until next summer.