The vaccines we’ve been waiting for are finally here, bringing new hope of returning to life as we previously knew it. The first signs of a return to normalcy? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new guidelines for those who are fully vaccinated (i.e., those who have waited two weeks since receiving their last vaccine dose). The new guidelines say that:
- Those who are fully vaccinated can safely gather indoors with other fully vaccinated people without wearing masks.
- Those who are fully vaccinated can safely gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household without wearing masks, unless anyone who is unvaccinated is at a high risk for severe COVID-19 illness.
- Those who are fully vaccinated do not need to quarantine if they've been exposed to COVID-19, unless they are experiencing symptoms.
But don’t throw away your masks or send out party invitations just yet—even if you have received your second dose. Fully vaccinated or not, the CDC says you should still avoid medium and large gatherings, refrain from domestic and international travel if you can, and continue to follow mask-wearing and social distancing guidelines in public.
“Highly effective coronavirus vaccines are only part of the solution to ending the spread of the virus,” says Courtland Keteyian, M.D., a preventive medicine specialist with Henry Ford Allegiance Health. “Face masks, social distancing and hand hygiene will still be essential for quite some time.”
Why Continue Safety Practices After You're Vaccinated?
We know it has been a long, frustrating year—and that everyone’s yearning to get back to their pre-pandemic lives—but the light at the end of the tunnel is near. Until we get there, here’s why you should continue to follow CDC pandemic guidelines after you've been vaccinated:
- Although the vaccines are as much as 95% effective, they are not 100% effective.
- Even if those who are vaccinated don’t get infected, we don’t yet know whether they can still be carriers of COVID-19 and unknowingly transfer it to others who remain at risk.
- It will take many months until a majority of the population is vaccinated.
- Your mask helps protect those who can’t be vaccinated and those not helped by the vaccine because of a weakened immune system.
- Current vaccines may be less effective against new, more contagious strains of the virus.
- We do not yet know how long protection will last after vaccination.
“You can definitely feel safer and more protected after receiving your full vaccine,” Dr. Keteyian says. “Just continue being careful and considerate of those who might be more vulnerable until the pandemic is completely under control.”
To use our online screening tool or to get the latest coronavirus updates, visit Henry Ford Health’s COVID-19 Resource Center.
Courtland Keteyian, M.D., is board certified in Public Health and General Preventive Medicine and works at Henry Ford Allegiance Health in Jackson, MI.