Congratulations on receiving your COVID-19 vaccine! You qualify as fully vaccinated two weeks after your second dose of Moderna or Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine, or two weeks after your single dose of Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
You may be wondering what it is safe to do now that you are fully immunized. As an infectious disease specialist, I have answered some common questions. Please keep in mind that information about COVID-19 and vaccines evolves and recommendations may change as we learn more.
Can I get together with people outside my household who are also fully vaccinated?
Yes, if you and your friends or family are fully immunized, getting together in small groups without a mask is considered low risk. While it is possible that fully vaccinated people can still spread the virus, vaccines are excellent for protecting you against serious illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19.
Hopefully we can start to see COVID-19 like the flu: The flu shot reduces the severity of the flu and lowers your chances of going to the hospital for pneumonia, but doesn’t completely eliminate the virus.
Regardless of your vaccination status, if you experience Symptoms of covid19, you should avoid close interactions with others. If you have tested positive for COVID-19 within 10 days of a scheduled visit, you should refrain from visiting other people.
Can I see family and friends who have not yet received the vaccine and socialize without my mask if I am fully vaccinated?
The risk that you COVID-19 development is low if you are vaccinated and attend a meeting indoors with other people who are not vaccinated. However, be aware that you can potentially spread the virus to others. Vaccination does not completely prevent you from getting infected with the virus; it simply reduces the symptoms and the severity of the disease. So you may not have any symptoms or have very mild symptoms and still pass the virus on to family and friends who have not yet been vaccinated.
The new recommendations below are based on the immunization status of yourself and your family or friends. As we learn more, these recommendations may change.
If you are fully vaccinated and are visiting family or friends who are fully vaccinated:
- Visits indoors without a mask are acceptable and probably low risk.
If you are fully vaccinated and you visit healthy but not yet vaccinated people aged 64 or younger living in a single household:
- Visits indoors without a mask are acceptable and probably low risk. While the virus can still be spread, the risk of healthy individuals – and especially younger ones – developing severe COVID-19 is low.
- Be aware that if older people contract COVID-19, their risk of hospitalization and death is much higher than that of younger people. A 60-year-old has a higher risk than a 50-year-old, and a 50-year-old is more at risk than a 40-year-old. Learn more about it CDC page explaining risks by age group.
If you are fully vaccinated and visit only one household of family or friends who have not yet been vaccinated and you are at risk of developing severe COVID-19 because of your age (65 years or older) or health problems, such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, sickle cell disease, or other specific conditions:
- You should all wear well-fitting masks and stay six feet from each other indoors. If possible, organize the visit outdoors or in a well-ventilated area to reduce the risk.
Mixing two or more households that have people who are not yet vaccinated increases the risk of contracting the virus that causes COVID-19 for anyone who is not vaccinated.
In general, the more closely people interact, the more time they spend with others, the greater the risk of contracting or spreading the virus, according to the CDC.
When possible, all people who gather for a visit can further reduce the risk by avoiding contact with people outside their home for 14 days prior to a visit and / or by obtaining tested for virus.
What if my partner or members of my household are not vaccinated?
You can help keep your partner or family members safe who have not yet been vaccinated. While it is not possible to wear a mask or stay away from the house, you can maintain these strict measures outside the house. This will help reduce your risk of exposure to the virus, and therefore lower the risk of passing the virus on to your partner or members of your household. Your unvaccinated partner or roommates should follow the same guidelines: wear a properly fitted mask, wash your hands frequently, maintain a physical distance, and avoid crowds outside the house.
Can I travel for leisure or pleasure?
At this point, you should avoid unnecessary travel and only visit people nearby as COVID-19 cases are still high. Traveling by plane, bus or train puts you in contact with many people and increases your risk of transmission. Vaccines do not provide 100% protection. We need to be careful, especially as we learn more about worrisome variants and how well does the vaccine protect against these strains.
And as stated before, you can also put other people at risk and spread the virus, even if you are protected yourself.
What precautions should I continue to take? Is it true that people should continue to wear masks in public?
Many more people need to be vaccinated before sufficient community immunity can be achieved. Until this happens, you can still pass the virus on to other people, even if you are fully vaccinated. Therefore, to protect others and reduce the overall spread of the virus, you can do your part by wearing a properly fitted mask in public spaces, maintaining physical distance, washing your hands frequently, and avoiding large crowds.
When can I go to a restaurant, a concert or a sporting event?
As noted, the larger the event or gathering, the more risk you take by exposing yourself to the virus and / or spreading it to others. Dining in restaurants is less risky for vaccinated people than attending a large indoor concert. No matter the level of risk, in any public setting you can do your part by wearing a properly fitted mask, keeping your distance, washing your hands and avoiding crowds.
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