You’ve Been Fully Vaccinated, Now What?

David Todd McCarty

According to the CDC, even after you’ve been fully vaccinated, you still need to follow precautions to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

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Since the US began vaccinating its citizens on Dec. 14, more than 90 million doses have been administered, reaching 17.7% of the total U.S. population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The U.S. is currently administering over 2.2 million shots a day, in an effort to stop the pandemic, and is working diligently towards reaching a so-called herd immunity.

In line with that effort, the CDC announced updated guidance and protocols for those who have been fully vaccinated in an effort to help curb the spread of COVID-19. The CDC considers persons to be fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose in a 2-dose series, like the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or two weeks after a single-dose vaccine, like Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine. Prior to two weeks after being fully vaccinated, or before you’ve received your second shot in the two-dose vaccine, you are not fully protected. Keep taking all prevention steps until you are fully vaccinated.

We typically think of a vaccine as being a prophylactic against any threat of a disease, but that’s almost never the case. Even a highly effective vaccine, such as the ones currently approved for use in the United States, are not 100% effective at keeping you from becoming infected or unknowingly spreading the virus. The CDC says that the approved vaccines are highly effective at keeping you from getting sick, and developing herd immunity across the country requires that a significant number of people be properly inoculated.

How to Protect Yourself and Others

COVID-19 vaccines are effective at protecting you from getting sick. Based on what we know about COVID-19 vaccines, people who have been fully vaccinated can start to do some things that they had stopped doing because of the pandemic.

We’re still learning how vaccines will affect the spread of COVID-19. After you’ve been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you should keep taking precautions in public places like wearing a mask, staying six feet apart from others, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces until we know more.

What’s Changed

If you’ve been fully vaccinated:

  • You can gather indoors with fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask.
  • You can gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household (for example, visiting with relatives who all live together) without masks, unless any of those people or anyone they live with has an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
  • If you’ve been around someone who has COVID-19, you do not need to stay away from others or get tested unless you have symptoms.

What Hasn’t Changed

For now, if you’ve been fully vaccinated:

  • You should still take steps to protect yourself and others in many situations, like wearing a mask, staying at least six feet apart from others, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces. Take these precautions whenever you are:
    • In public
    • Gathering with unvaccinated people from more than one other household
    • Visiting with an unvaccinated person who is at increased risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19 or who lives with a person at increased risk
  • You should still avoid medium or large-sized gatherings.
  • You should still delay domestic and international travel. If you do travel, you’ll still need to follow CDC requirements and recommendations.
  • You should still watch out for symptoms of COVID-19, especially if you’ve been around someone who is sick. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should get tested and stay home and away from others.
  • You will still need to follow guidance at your workplace.

What We Know and What We’re Still Learning

  • We know that COVID-19 vaccines are effective at preventing COVID-19 disease, especially severe illness and death.
  • We’re still learning how effective the vaccines are against variants of the virus that causes COVID-19. Early data show the vaccines may work against some variants but could be less effective against others.
  • We know that other prevention steps help stop the spread of COVID-19, and that these steps are still important, even as vaccines are being distributed.
  • We’re still learning how well COVID-19 vaccines keep people from spreading the disease.
  • Early data show that the vaccines may help keep people from spreading COVID-19, but we are learning more as more people get vaccinated.
  • We’re still learning how long COVID-19 vaccines can protect people.
  • As we know more, CDC will continue to update our recommendations for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

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Until we know more about those questions, everyone — even people who’ve had their vaccines — should continue taking basic prevention steps when recommended.

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Writer, Director, Photographer, Designer, and Journalist. I am endlessly curious about politics, street food, photography, and garden gnomes.

Cape May Court House, NJ
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