Need information on COVID-19 and vaccination?
So you just got a COVID-19 vaccine, now what? Is quarantine over for you? Is it safe to start living your life like it’s 2019, before the pandemic began?
If you are fully vaccinated and were hoping for an immediate return to a completely maskless life, you might be a little disappointed by the latest guidelines from the federal government.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated recommendations that allow fully vaccinated people to gather indoors, without masks or physical distancing, with people who are also fully vaccinated. They can also be indoors and unmasked with unvaccinated people from the same household who are at low risk of serious illness from the virus.
The loosening of recommendations for fully vaccinated people is a positive sign that we’re making progress, but the CDC still recommends that everyone, including those who are vaccinated, continue to follow the same recommended guidelines in public settings, including wearing masks.
“For moderate or large gatherings, at the gym or other large social venues, the guidelines still apply to wear the mask and to physically distance so that we’re not spreading it to other people who have not had the opportunity to be vaccinated yet,” Dr. Hippler said.
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. Until then, he said, those who have been vaccinated have an obligation to help keep others safe.
You are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or two weeks after receiving the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
According to the CDC vaccine tracker, less than 15% of the population is fully vaccinated, and only about a quarter of the population in the U.S. has received even the first dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, as of March 23.
Dr. Hippler believes the data shows “we’re just not there yet” to loosen restrictions any further. More research is needed to see if vaccinated people can still become infected, have no symptoms and spread the virus to others who have not been vaccinated.
“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 still recommends avoiding unnecessary travel, which may upset those who are fully vaccinated and aching to see loved ones or take a vacation. Dr. Hippler believes everyone has to determine for themselves what is necessary for their own mental health and well-being.
CDC guidance still suggests fully vaccinated people get tested and quarantine after a known exposure to someone with COVID-19, but only if they have symptoms.
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. He suggests checking with your loved one’s facility.