Congratulations on receiving your COVID-19 vaccine! You are considered 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 United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
You may be wondering what it is safe to do now that you are fully vaccinated. As a specialist in infectious diseases, I have answered some frequently asked questions. Please note that information on COVID-19 and vaccines is evolving and recommendations may change as we learn more.
Can I meet people outside of my household who are also fully vaccinated?
Yes, if you and your friends or family are fully vaccinated, collecting in small groups without a mask is considered low risk. While it is possible that fully vaccinated people could still spread the virus, the vaccines are great at protecting you from serious illness, hospitalization, and deaths due to COVID-19.
Hopefully we can look at COVID-19 like influenza: the flu vaccine makes the flu less severe and less likely to be hospitalized for pneumonia, but does not completely eliminate the virus.
Regardless of your vaccination status, if you experience symptoms of COVID-19, you should avoid close interactions with others. If you tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 10 days prior to a scheduled visit, avoid visiting others.
Can I see family and friends who haven’t yet had the vaccine and socialize without my mask if I’m fully vaccinated?
The risk of that you will Developing COVID-19 is low when vaccinated and attending an indoor meeting with others who are not vaccinated. However, please note that you may be able to do so distribution the virus to others. Vaccination does not fully protect you from infection with the virus. it only reduces the symptoms and the severity of the disease. So it is possible that you have no symptoms, or only very mild ones, and still pass the virus on to family and friends who have not yet been vaccinated.
The following new recommendations are based on the vaccination status of you and your family members or friends. As we learn more, these recommendations may change.
If you are fully vaccinated and visiting a fully vaccinated family or friends:
- Indoor visits without a mask are fine and probably low-risk.
If you are fully vaccinated and visiting healthy but unvaccinated people aged 64 or younger who live in a single household:
- Indoor visits without a mask are fine and probably low risk. While the virus can still spread, the risk that healthy – and especially younger – people will develop severe COVID-19 is small.
- Note that older people who receive COVID-19 have a much higher risk of hospitalization and death than younger people. A 60-year-old is at higher risk than a 50-year-old, and a 50-year-old is at a higher risk than a 40-year-old. For more information, see this CDC page which explains the risks by age group.
If you are fully vaccinated and visit a single household of family members or friends who have not yet been vaccinated and are at risk of severe COVID-19 due to their age (65 years of age or older) or health problems such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, sickle cell disease or other specific conditions::
- They should all wear well-fitting masks and be one meter apart indoors. If possible, hold the visit outdoors or in a well-ventilated area to reduce the risk.
Mixing two or more households with people who have not yet been vaccinated increases the risk that anyone who is not vaccinated will get the virus that causes COVID-19.
In general, the more closely people interact with each other and the longer they work with others, the higher the risk of getting or spreading the virus, according to the CDC.
If possible, anyone who gathers for a visit can further reduce the risk by avoiding contact with anyone outside their household and / or getting tested for the virus for 14 days prior to visiting.
What if my partner or anyone in my household is not vaccinated?
You can do your part to ensure that your partner or household members who have not yet been vaccinated are safe. While it may not be possible to wear a mask or stay some distance inside the house, you can follow these strict measures outside of the house as well. This will help reduce the chance of exposure to the virus, and therefore lower the risk of the virus being passed on to your partner or household members. Your unvaccinated partner or roommates should follow the same guidelines: wear a well-fitting mask, wash your hands frequently, keep physical distance, and avoid the crowds in places outside the home.
Can I travel for leisure or pleasure?
At this point, you should avoid unnecessary travel and only visit people nearby as cases of COVID-19 are still high. When you travel by plane, bus, or train, you come into contact with many people and increase the risk of transmission. The vaccines do not offer 100% protection. We need to be careful, especially as we learn more about variants of concern and the protection of the vaccine against these strains.
And as mentioned earlier, even if you are protected yourself, you can put others at risk and spread the virus.
What further precautions should I take? Is it true that people still have to wear masks in public?
Many more people will need to be vaccinated before we can achieve adequate community immunity. Until then, you can still pass the virus on to others even if you are fully vaccinated. To help ensure the safety of others and reduce the overall spread of the virus, you can do your part by wearing a well-fitting mask in public spaces, maintaining physical distance, washing hands frequently, and avoiding large crowds.
When can I go to a restaurant, concert or sporting event?
As mentioned earlier, the bigger the event or gathering, the greater the risk that you will expose yourself to the virus and / or pass the virus on to others. Indoor dining in restaurants is associated with a lower risk for vaccinated people compared to attending a large indoor concert. Regardless of the risk level, you can do your part in any public setting by wearing a well-fitting mask, observing the distance, washing your hands, and avoiding the crowds.