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What you can and can’t do after you’re fully vaccinated against COVID-19

Safety | Wellness | March 11, 2021
Man holds COVID-19 vaccine card
Being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 allows people to return to some normal activities, but not all.

More than a year after the COVID-19 pandemic began, people around the world are being vaccinated against the disease.  

The vaccines are effective at preventing a person from getting COVID-19, as well as lessening the severity of the potential illness and risk of death. 

That’s great news for those who are fully vaccinated, said Catherine Kroll, PeaceHealth’s director of infection prevention. 

“This is an exciting first step to returning to our pre-pandemic lives,” she said. “However, precautions like wearing a mask and practicing physical distancing are still important until we know more about how the vaccines will affect the spread of the coronavirus.”    

What does ‘fully vaccinated’ mean? 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers a person fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the final dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. For the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines – that’s two weeks after the second dose; for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, that’s two weeks after the single dose.  

If you are not yet fully vaccinated, you are not fully protected and need to keep practicing the safety precautions.  

What can I do? 

Once a person is fully vaccinated, the CDC says:  

  • You can gather indoors in private homes or locations with other fully vaccinated people without wearing masks. 

  • You can gather indoors with friends or family from one other household without wearing masks, unless someone in the group has an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.   

  • You do not need to quarantine or get tested if you’ve been around someone with COVID-19 unless you start having symptoms.  (The exception to this guideline is for people living in a group setting or working in a high-risk setting like healthcare – they should quarantine for 14 days and follow testing guidance based on the location.)

What can’t I do? 

Health experts are still learning a few key insights, such as how long the vaccinated person will remain fully protected, how effective the vaccines are in preventing a vaccinated person from spreading the virus, and how well the vaccines will protect against virus variants.  

While some of the early research is encouraging, the CDC says everyone should continue the prevention guidelines, such as wearing a mask and practicing physical distancing, until more is known. 

That means these activities should still be avoided, even by those who are fully vaccinated. 

  • Medium or large gatherings

  • Gatherings with unvaccinated people from more than one other household

  • Visiting unvaccinated people who are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 

  • Traveling to other parts of the U.S. or other countries

Continue to follow state and local guidelines for in-person gatherings. You should also continue to watch for symptoms and follow guidelines in place at work, school, hospitals and other public areas.  

When can we go back to normal? 

The pandemic likely won’t be declared over until we reach herd immunity. Herd immunity means enough people are immune to the virus, either through exposure or vaccination. Scientists believe we’ll need more than 70% of the population to be immune to stop the uncontrolled spread of COVID-19.  

 

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