A masked woman walks outside on a city street.

I’m fully vaccinated against COVID-19. What now?

This article was updated May 14, 2021, to reflect new information from the CDC.

So you are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, now what? Is quarantine over for you? Is it safe to start living your life like it’s 2019, before the pandemic began?

A positive step forward

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated its recommendations  for fully vaccinated people when they are in a non-health care setting. Fully vaccinated means it’s been two weeks since you received your final dose of any COVID-19 vaccine.

According to the new CDC guidelines, those who have been fully vaccinated can now:

      • Resume activities without wearing masks or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance
      • Resume domestic travel and refrain from testing before or after travel or self-quarantine after travel
      • Refrain from testing before leaving the United States for international travel (unless required by the destination) and refrain from self-quarantine after arriving back in the United States
      • Refrain from testing following a known exposure, if asymptomatic, with some exceptions for specific settings
      • Refrain from quarantine following a known exposure if asymptomatic
      • Refrain from routine screening testing if feasible

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For now, fully vaccinated people should continue to:

  • Get tested if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms
  • Follow CDC and health department travel requirements and recommendations

In addition, fully vaccinated people are still required to wear a mask on all planes, buses, trains and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations.

Maintain caution

The loosening of recommendations for fully vaccinated people is a great sign that we’re making progress, but the CDC still recommends unvaccinated people wear masks indoors and in public gatherings. Any fully vaccinated people should still wear a mask and physically distance when required by business and workplace guidelines.

Stephen Hippler, MD, chief clinical officer for OSF HealthCare, supports the cautious approach.

The CDC guidelines for those who are fully vaccinated will continue to evolve as more people are immunized against the virus, or until more research becomes available to suggest changes, Dr. Hippler said.

Reduced risk of infection

The CDC now says the risk of infection is minimal for fully vaccinated people, and the risk of transmission from fully vaccinated people to unvaccinated people is also reduced.

According to the CDC vaccine tracker, as of May 14, nearly 36% of the population is fully vaccinated, and about 47% of the population in the U.S. has received the first dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine..

“Much is still unknown. Being smart and being safe is probably the right approach. And even those who are fully vaccinated need to watch out for others,” Dr. Hippler said. “It’s about protecting others and protecting our community in addition to protecting ourselves.”

Many guidelines remain unchanged for now

The CDC recommends avoiding unnecessary travel until you are fully vaccinated. Dr. Hippler believes everyone has to determine for themselves what is necessary for their own mental health and well-being.

There is no change in recommendations for those who have already had COVID-19 but aren’t fully vaccinated. Some immunologists argue that people who’ve recovered should only need one dose of a vaccine. But, according to Dr. Hippler, the research isn’t available to prove that’s appropriate.

The agency does not give specific guidance for nursing homes. Dr. Hippler says some are allowing in-person visits but with ongoing mitigation measures to prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. The American Health Care Association has said fully vaccinated residents of long-term care facilities and their visitors may visit in a private room without masks.  Dr. Hippler suggests checking with your loved one’s facility to understand what is being allowed when you visit your family members or friends


About Author: Ken Harris

Ken Harris is the proudest father and a writing coordinator for the Marketing & Communications division of OSF HealthCare.

He has a bachelor's in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and worked as a daily newspaper reporter for four years before leaving the field and eventually finding his way to OSF HealthCare.

In his free time, Ken likes reading, fly fishing, hanging out with his dog and generally pestering his lovely, patient wife.

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Categories: COVID-19