WASHINGTON — Fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks in most public spaces, according to new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Its guidance for unvaccinated people, however, remains the same: you should wear a mask.
As more people get vaccinated, some couples are currently stuck in a spot where one partner is vaccinated and one is not. That can make sharing a kiss a little awkward.
A VERIFY viewer asked about the risks of kissing when only one person is vaccinated against COVID-19.
“Can a fully vaccinated person give an unvaccinated person COVID through kissing?”
Dr. David Sullivan, professor at Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health in Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology
Dr. Stuart Ray, professor at Johns Hopkins Medicine
Yes, it’s possible for a vaccinated person to spread COVID-19 to an unvaccinated person through kissing.
WHAT WE FOUND
First, it’s important to establish that it is possible to transmit COVID-19 by kissing. A recent article from the Mayo Clinic explains why.
“The virus spreads by respiratory droplets released when someone with the virus coughs, sneezes or talks,” the Mayo Clinic said in the article. “These droplets can be inhaled or land in the mouth or nose of a person nearby. Coming into contact with a person's spit through kissing or other sexual activities could expose you to the virus.”
Next, we have to establish if it’s possible for a vaccinated person to transmit the virus. The CDC’s guidelines for fully vaccinated people say it is, although the likelihood of transmission is significantly reduced.
“COVID-19 vaccines reduce the risk of people spreading COVID-19,” the CDC says.
Dr. David Sullivan, a professor at Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health, explained that approximately 10,000 people of the 100 million people who have been fully vaccinated have gotten COVID-19. That’s 0.01% of the fully vaccinated population.
“You're sharing close space with aerosols that would transmit it. So theoretically, yes,” he said of the possibility of a vaccinated person spreading COVID-19 to an unvaccinated person through kissing.
Dr. Stuart Ray, also a professor at Johns Hopkins Medicine, agreed.
“There is some residual risk of transmission, and as long as community rates are high I think we ought to exercise some caution,” he said. “So I think the straight answer is yes you can spread it and yes you can contract it, but the risk is a lot lower than it was before being vaccinated.”
But the CDC’s guidelines for fully vaccinated people say you “can resume activities that you did prior to the pandemic.” If those activities included lots of kissing, doesn’t that mean it’s okay?
“Certainly if you're vaccinated, you're safer than if you're unvaccinated to do that,” Dr. Ray said. “So if you want to go around kissing people, then being vaccinated makes it safer.”
Dr. Ray recommended having a conversation with a potential date about whether the other person is vaccinated before any physical intimacy. If the other person is reluctant to get vaccinated, he says it’s good to know why because they may have health issues or other real concerns that would be important for you to know anyway.
“Those kinds of conversations seem both reasonable and timely, you're managing your own risk,” he said. “And so talking to someone about these kinds of issues can be informative.”
Lastly, Dr. Sullivan issued a final word of caution before embarking on your summer of love.
“If you happen to be sick, feeling cold, then I would refrain,” he said.
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