Health Experts Warn Public Not to Let Guard Down as Vaccinations Increase

As more people receive the COVID-19 vaccine, Massachusetts health experts are urging people to continue to take precautions

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As Massachusetts expands vaccine eligibility to everyone 16 and older, public health experts are worried too many people are letting their guard down too fast.

Seventeen-year-old Elizabeth Eshetu of Malden could not wait to roll up her sleeve, but she is also concerned after noticing places are becoming more crowded.

"I kind of feel a little bit uncomfortable. We need to realize that the vaccine doesn't mean we get to go outside and do whatever we want," Eshetu said.

Although many people are not yet fully vaccinated, some are noticing a change in behavior.

"People are hopping on planes. They're not wearing masks. People tend to think they're really invincible when they're not," said Sarah Iodice, a student at UMass Lowell.

Dr. Kimi Kobayashi, the chief quality officer at UMass Memorial, said it is important for everyone to wait the full two weeks after the second shot for the body to build up immunity. However, he also said everyone needs to keep taking precautions until more of the population is vaccinated.

"When there's a glimmer of hope, it's natural for everyone to feel like, 'OK, we're set with this,' but just because we have reached this important occasion now in the commonwealth, it doesn't mean the pandemic is over," Kobayashi said.

He said it is also important to remember that experts still do not know if someone who is vaccinated can transmit the virus.

"We have arrived at this important stage and we are close to the end, but this is not the end," Kobayashi said.

The public health concerns that still remain are part of the reason why Trina's Starlite Lounge in Somerville is not offering any indoor dining yet.

"It was an easy decision to make in terms of keeping everyone we know safe, but it was a hard decision to make financially," managing partner Emma Hollander said.

They know there is a growing appetite for indoor dining, but until more people are fully vaccinated, they are choosing not to take the risk.

"We worked this hard for this long, we can't throw in the towel now," she said. "It's just not worth it for us."

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