CDC Guidelines for Vaccinated People: What You Need to Know
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a set of public health recommendations for individuals who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
It’s an exciting series of changes, informed by our deeper understanding of what the COVID-19 vaccines can do, and it opens up the possibility of more “normal” in-person interaction for vaccinated individuals.
But, of course, this creates a lot of questions.
Here are a few things to keep in mind, and answers to some questions you may have about the new recommendations from the CDC.
Know the definition of “fully vaccinated” against COVID-19
The CDC defines someone as “fully vaccinated” two weeks after they’ve received their final dose of the vaccine.
This means you can follow these guidelines two weeks after you get:
- The single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine
- The second dose of the Moderna vaccine
- The second dose of the Pfizer vaccine
It takes time for your immune system to produce the antibodies that will protect you.
What does the CDC say is safe for vaccinated people to do?
The CDC says the following activities are safe for fully vaccinated people to do without masks or physical distancing:
- Visiting other fully vaccinated people indoors
- Indoor visits with unvaccinated people from the same household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19
The CDC also says fully vaccinated people do not need to quarantine or get a test following a known exposure to COVID-19, as long as the vaccinated person doesn’t have symptoms of illness.
(If you’re fully vaccinated and have any symptoms of coronavirus, get tested to ensure you’re not spreading the virus to others.)
How many vaccinated people can be together in an indoor space without masks while remaining safe?
The CDC was smart to use the word visit, instead of gather, when announcing these recommendations.
Visit implies an intimate in-person meeting—like grandparents seeing their grandkids at home.
Gathering is what we’ve been told to avoid throughout the pandemic. In these recommendations, the CDC says everyone—including vaccinated people—should continue to avoid “medium- or large-size gatherings,” like weddings or conferences, where distancing can be hard to maintain.
Any space with multiple households present—especially indoors—raises the risk of COVID-19 spread.
Is there a time limit for how long vaccinated people can spend together?
Small groups of fully vaccinated people can visit unmasked, indoors, for as long as they’d like.
Sounds great, doesn’t it?
Can fully vaccinated people travel?
The CDC has not updated its recommendations for travel, which say travel should be avoided whenever possible. That includes for vaccinated individuals.
If you decide to travel, you must follow all federal and state guidelines for testing before you depart and after you return.
If you feel sick, even if you’re vaccinated, do not travel.
And be sure to wear your mask and maintain physical distancing, especially on planes, buses, and other forms of public transportation.
Visit the CDC’s website for more information on travel considerations.
How does visiting an unvaccinated person work?
When it comes to planning interactions with individuals who aren’t fully vaccinated, you should always put the safety of the unvaccinated person first.
If the unvaccinated person is at high risk of serious illness, you should continue to follow all COVID-19 prevention steps, including masking, distancing, and visiting outside.
The CDC uses the example of families wanting to take their child to see a vaccinated grandparent. If the child’s parents are both healthy, the risk of serious illness is minimal for everyone. If one of the child’s parents is immunocompromised and hasn’t yet received a vaccine, it is safer to wait.
When in public, vaccinated people should keep following safety protocols
The CDC’s recommendations apply only to in-person gatherings in a private household. If you go to a restaurant, the grocery store, or a medium- to large-size gathering, you can’t be sure everyone in that space is vaccinated or low-risk.
Keep following all of your safety protocols when not in someone’s home.
“Public” includes healthcare settings and workplaces
Healthcare organizations were the first to receive COVID-19 vaccines to keep frontline healthcare workers safe. While many healthcare workers are vaccinated, the CDC specifically says these new recommendations do not apply to healthcare settings.
At South Shore Health, all of our employees will continue to follow all federal and state COVID-19 safety precautions, including masking, in all indoor areas at all times.
All workplaces—even those outside of healthcare—should follow suit. Even if the majority of your employees are vaccinated, they need to continue masking and social distancing until we know more about the risk of transmission in the workplace.
It’s important to note that the CDC made these recommendations because the risk of hospitalization or death is much lower for low-risk or fully-vaccinated individuals. It’s still possible that COVID-19 transmission can occur.
But COVID-19 will not be completely eradicated anytime soon. These public health recommendations are the first step toward balancing health risks of COVID-19 with resuming in-person interactions safely.