Dr. Fauci Says It's 'Very Likely' Safe for Vaccinated Family Members to Hug

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president's chief medical adviser, has said it is "very likely" safe for two family members who have been vaccinated to hug each other.

Fauci, who also serves as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, made the comment in response to a question from MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell on Thursday.

"So, for example, if you're vaccinated and you have a member of your family vaccinated, someone that's not lived with you, can you actually be with them without a mask? Can I sit down and give them a hug and things like that? And the answer is very likely, of course, you can," Fauci said.

Fauci made a distinction between what vaccinated people could do within a particular "pod" and what they could do in public settings.

"It's going to really depend, if you are vaccinated, and you are with someone who's vaccinated, the things that you can do are much, much more liberal in the sense of pulling back on stringent public health measures, versus when you're out in society," Fauci said. "You got to separate it from what you can do in a certain vacuum versus what you can do in society."

Health authorities such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are urging immunized people to continue taking standard precautions such as social distancing and wearing masks. This is because it is not yet clear to what extent the vaccines reduce transmission of the virus—despite some encouraging early evidence that they do—and the jabs are not 100 percent effective at preventing disease.

Some experts, however, have raised the idea of "immunity bubbles," in which fully vaccinated people could gather in groups.

"A small group of people who've been vaccinated can probably get together and hug each other and not wear masks," Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease expert and professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, told Nexstar Media Wire.

Scientists caution that those who want to create an immunity bubble with people from outside their household should ensure that everyone is fully vaccinated—meaning they have received both doses of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and have then waited at least two weeks for their body to build up maximum protection against the virus.

"The risk is not zero, but the risk is markedly decreased," Bill Moss, a pediatrician and professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, told NBC's Today. "That would be a group of people who are at very, very low risk of getting severe disease ... I think that's a reasonable thing for people to be doing."

Moss added that people who wanted to create a bubble should gather only in private spaces where everyone's vaccination status was known.

"People creating immunity bubbles should be staying at home," Moss said.

Having groups of people, all of whom are fully vaccinated, gathering together, could potentially be "a very viable return to some degree to social normality," Sten Vermund, a pediatrician and dean of the Yale School of Public Health, told Today. "If everybody were vaccinated, an [immunity bubble] could include an entire nursing home or an entire social group."

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Anthony Fauci at National Institutes of Health
Dr. Anthony Fauci listens as President Joe Biden speaks during a tour of the Viral Pathogenesis Laboratory at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, on February 11. SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images