Life after vaccines: When does 'normal' become possible?

A man stands at a podium with a football field behind him.
Gov. Tim Walz, left, receives the COVID-19 vaccination from Kelly Robinson, president of the Twin Cities chapter of Black Nurses Rock at TCO Performance Center in Eagan, Minn., on the first day all Minnesotans age 16 and older are eligible on March 30.
Tom Baker for MPR News file

Less than five months after COVID-19 vaccinations were introduced in the United States, more than 106 million Americans have been fully vaccinated against the virus — about one-third of the population.

For some, life feels like it is back to normal. For others, the concerns surrounding COVID-19 still linger even after vaccination.

While the push toward herd immunity remains a concern, have early vaccination rates changed how Americans are living during this transitional period? What are common concerns people have post-vaccination?

Host Angela Davis talked to two doctors to search for answers.

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“Life is in flux,” Chyke Doubeni, the director of the Mayo Clinic Center for Health Equity and Community Engagement Research, told Davis. “It’s, in some ways, anxiety-provoking. We’re not quite sure where we are.”

Navigating this flux after you’ve been vaccinated is “a matter of using the same good sense that you’ve been using thus far,” said Ana Núñez, the vice dean of diversity, equity and inclusion at the University of Minnesota Medical School.

That means following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, being careful around large groups of people and people who may not be vaccinated and getting vaccinated yourself if you haven’t yet.

Núñez and Doubeni also responded to listener questions about the protection provided by the various COVID-19 vaccines, continuing to wear masks, navigating social gatherings and travel and living with children who aren’t vaccinated.

Davis asked Núñez and Doubeni about the latest on issues of vaccine availability and skepticism as well, along with goals and concerns surrounding vaccination rates, herd immunity, and new COVID-19 variants.

Ultimately, Núñez said, getting vaccinated is our collective responsibility: “We need to do this for our community because we care. … Our own safety is dependent on how we take care of each other.”

If we meet vaccination targets like President Joe Biden’s goal to vaccinate 70 percent of the American population by July 4, Doubeni is optimistic the pandemic will take a turn for the better.

“When we’re fully vaccinated to a level in this country where we feel that there’s enough protection, life will begin to go back to normal,” Doubeni said. “That’s our hope.”


  • Ana Núñez is the vice dean of diversity, equity and inclusion at the University of Minnesota Medical School and a professor of medicine.

  • Chyke Doubeni is a clinical epidemiologist and health services researcher at Mayo Clinic. He is also the director of the Mayo Clinic Center for Health Equity and Community Engagement Research.

Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation.

Núñez and Doubeni previously appeared on MPR News with Angela Davis on Dec. 16, 2020, to discuss medical racism and vaccine distrust. You can listen to that episode of the show here.

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