COVID-19 vaccinations are being administered across the country, leading to a growing population of those who have received the vaccine.
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On May 13, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released updated guidance for people who have been fully vaccinated against the novel coronavirus. The biggest update focused on mask wearing and social distancing, with the agency stating:
"Fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in any setting, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance."
Before discussing the updated guidance in further detail, there are a couple of factors to keep in mind.
Why get vaccinated against COVID-19?
The COVID-19 vaccines protect you from getting sick with the novel coronavirus.
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were found to be 94 and 95% effective against mild-to-moderate cases of coronavirus. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was 72% effective in the United States at preventing moderate illness.
While the overall ability of each vaccine to reduce the risk of mild-to-moderate coronavirus infection may vary, all three vaccines were equally effective (100%) in clinical trials at preventing hospitalizations and death from coronavirus, which is the most important marker we have for assessing efficacy.
The COVID-19 vaccines also reduce the risk of fully vaccinated people spreading the virus.
What does it mean to be fully vaccinated from COVID-19?
You are not considered “fully vaccinated” the moment you get your single shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine or the second shot of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine.
People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their final dose of the vaccine.
What guidance has changed?
People who have been fully vaccinated can:
- Resume activities, both indoors and outdoors, without wearing masks or social distancing. You must still follow federal, state and local laws, rules and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.
- You do not need to isolate or get tested for COVID-19 if you have been around someone who has tested positive for the virus, unless you develop symptomsAn exception to this change in guidance would be if you live in a group setting, like a group home or detention facility
- When traveling in the U.S., you do not need to get tested before or after — or self-quarantine when you return home
- If you are traveling internationally, you'll need to pay attention to the requirements at your destination. There are also different protocols for when you return home, which have been outlined by the CDC
Why was the guidance changed?
The CDC says indoor and outdoor activities pose "minimal risk" to people who are fully vaccinated from COVID-19. The agency also said those who are fully vaccinated have a reduced risk of transmitting the virus to those who are unvaccinated.
What guidance hasn’t changed?
Even if you’ve been fully vaccinated, you should still follow local laws, rules and regulations, which can include your city/county, workplace and local businesses.
If you travel, health and safety protocols will still be in effect. You'll still be required to wear a mask on planes, buses and other forms of public transportation.
If you develop symptoms of COVID-19, even if you have been fully vaccinated, you should get tested and distance yourself from others.
If you are immunocompromised or take medications that weaken your immune system, you should speak with your healthcare provider to discuss what activities are safe. These individuals may need to continue following all health and safety protocols to protect themselves against COVID-19.
Looking for additional guidance?
The CDC has created a "Choosing Safer Activities" guide on their COVID-19 website.
The guide addresses a variety of indoor and outdoor activities and assigns a rating of Safest, Less Safe or Least Safe, depending on whether you are vaccinated or unvaccinated.
We are learning more about COVID-19 vaccines every day. It is important to remain diligent and follow safety protocols, as established by health professionals, as we work our way through the pandemic.
Have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine?
Your health is our priority, and we've created a COVID-19 Vaccine Resource Center to keep you informed.
Find out if you're eligible to receive the vaccine and get answers to commonly asked questions.