Now that you’re vaccinated, how risky is kissing?

It's International Kissing Day! Let's raise a glass to these cute, kissable moments captured by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's photo staff. Former President Jimmy Carter sneaks a kiss with wife Rosalynn. DeKalb Commissioner Mereda Davis Johnson kisses her husband, U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson. Former AJC photojournalist Ben Gray kisses his wife Adrianne. Sandy Springs Police Officer Michael DeWald gets a kiss from his K-9 partner, Rock.

There’s no question that COVID has changed the way we live and date. The only socializing we’re used to is social media and social distancing, and when someone is talking about a shot, they’re probably referring to the vaccine rather than an alcoholic beverage. But now that more and more people are eligible to get the vaccine, what does that mean for dating?

For many young singles, the feeling of sharing a kiss with a stranger has turned from excitement to anxiety — but it turns out that once you’re vaccinated, a makeout session might be less risky than some other activities we’re all eager to return to.

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Dr. David Rubin, a professor of pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, recently told the New York Times that kissing could be lower risk than something like hitting the dance floor in a crowded club — depending on whether your makeout partner is vaccinated or not.

Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease expert at the University of California, San Francisco, agreed.

“If you’re in a controlled setting, and you’re just with that person, and you want to take a chance on making out with that person and you think that person doesn’t have any risk of getting bad COVID — from the CDC guidance, you can go ahead and make out with that person all you want,” Chin-Hong said.

Of course, you are taking a gamble.

“The name of the game here is control,” he added. “The more noses and mouths that get together, the potentially riskier it is for transmission.”

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The safest route? Find out if that guy or gal you want to lock lips with has received the full dose of a vaccine. I’m not saying you have to force them to pull out their vaccination card as proof, but it can’t hurt to ask — which isn’t too hard to do. With COVID being the top thing on everyone’s minds, you can simply say: “I feel so much better after getting my shots. Are we on the same page?”

Heck, this summer the top pickup line might just be: “Pfizer or Moderna?” (Don’t worry, Johnson & Johnson, we’re not forgetting about you). It sounds silly and will almost certainly get a laugh, but at the same time, it may just give you the peace of mind to go in for a smooch.

While we’re certainly getting back to normal, it’s definitely at a slower pace than we’d all like. Experts interviewed by the New York Times stressed that just because you’ve personally had the vaccine, it’s still going to be a slow process to return to prepandemic life.

“The movement back to normal life should be a slow step-by-step,” said Tara Kirk Sell, a senior associate at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “Then it should be a gradual move forward, rather than this huge explosion of, ‘I’m free!’”

While hand sanitizer and masks may be mainstays for a bit longer, the risk of avoiding meeting new people is easing up. And there are plenty of low-risk dates — going for a hike, eating outdoors or heading to the beach — that just might lead to that kiss you’ve been craving for more than a year.

Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps others navigate the often intimidating world of online dating.

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