Dr. Fauci: It's 'very likely' safe for vaccinated family members to hug

Around 42 million Americans have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine so far

White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said Thursday that it's "very likely" that family members who have been vaccinated against coronavirus can safely hug each other. 

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director explained that what vaccinated individuals can safely do with family members and in a public setting differ greatly. 

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If an individual is vaccinated and with another person who is vaccinated, the things they can do are "much, much more liberal in the sense of pulling back on stringent public health measures," Fauci said during an interview on MSBNC with host Andrea Mitchell.

People wait in line to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination site set up in a park in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

People wait in line to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination site set up in a park in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

However, when out in "society," a vaccinated individual's safety is not as assured if only a small portion of the population has been vaccinated, he said. 

"For example, if you're vaccinated and you have a member of your family vaccinated -- someone [who] has 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."

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"But if only 10% of the society is vaccinated, you're not going to be able to go to a restaurant or to go to a theater because it's not going to be opening," he told Mitchell. "So, that's the reason why ... you've got to separate it from what you can do in a certain vacuum versus what you can do in society."

As of Friday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said around 42 million people have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. Of those 17 million people have been fully vaccinated.

While getting the vaccine does not mean an individual cannot be reinfected, it drastically lowers the chance and lessens the severity of an infection.

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are 95% effective in protecting against the COVID-19 virus, though the CDC and Fauci are still urging those immunized to continue taking precautions like wearing masks and social distancing.

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As states transition into different phases of vaccine rollouts, dangerous winter weather has hampered the process across nearly all 50 states.

White House coronavirus adviser Andy Slavitt said Friday that about six million doses had been delayed due to inclement weather and that 1.4 million of those are already in transit as they work to clear the backlog.