Safety of Celebrating the Spring Holidays with Family and Friends for Head and Neck Cancer Patients
The upcoming spring holidays (Easter, Passover and Ramadan) create challenges for those who are looking forward to celebrating them in person with friends and family. The availability of vaccination against the virus made it easier to resume the tradition of in-person celebration although the risk of acquiring the infection can be high in some situations.
Vigilance and mitigating the risk of acquiring COVID-19 infection are especially important for Individuals with cancer including of the head and neck, who are at greater risk of suffering from a serious and life-threatening COVD -19 infection.
Celebrating the holidays in close settings can be risky because of the difficulty of maintaining social distance, and adequate ventilation. Mask wearing is impractical while eating and drinking.
The Center of Disease Control’s Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated provide useful guidelines that can help plan a safe Seder and avoid risky scenarios that would allow the COVID-19 virus to spread.
For the purposes of the CDC’s recommendations, people are considered fully vaccinated for COVID-19 more than 2 weeks after they have received the second dose in a 2-dose series (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna), or more than 2 weeks after they have received a single-dose vaccine (Johnson and Johnson/Janssen ).
Interpretation of the CDC recommendations to the spring holidays scenario for fully vaccinated people are:
- It is permissible for fully vaccinated people to celebrate indoor with other fully vaccinated people or unvaccinated people from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 disease without wearing masks or physical distancing.
- Wearing masks, practicing physical distancing, and adhering to other prevention measures is required when celebrating with unvaccinated people who are at increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease or who have an unvaccinated household member who is at increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease
- Wearing masks, maintaining physical distance, and practicing other prevention measures are required when celebrating with unvaccinated people from multiple households
- Avoiding medium – and large-sized Seder
- Unvaccinated individuals from different households should refrain from celebrating in person.
Since the COVID-19 vaccine is not currently available to children, extra caution should be practiced when they are present. Outdoor gathering with masks or opening the windows to improve the ventilation, and distancing would be safest.
Although the available vaccines are helpful in curbing the spread of COVID-19 their efficacy against the variants of the virus in unknown. These variants seem to spread more easily and quickly than other variants, which may lead to more cases of COVID-19. It is there prudent to continue to maintain vigilance in the upcoming holiday.
Itzhak Brook MD
Adjunct Professor of Pediatric Medicine
Georgetown University, Washington DC
HNCA Board Member and HNCA Ambassador
Throat Cancer Survivor and Laryngectomee
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