After a long and difficult year spent coping with Covid-19, the number of fully vaccinated American adults increases by the day. While being fully vaccinated doesn’t give you carte blanche to act like the pandemic is over, the CDC has issued recommendations that allow for the easing of some restrictions for vaccinated individuals. Once you are fully vaccinated, meaning two weeks have passed since your final dose of the vaccine, the CDC offers the following safety guidelines.
Once fully vaccinated, you can safely:
- Gather indoors with others who are fully vaccinated without masks.
- Gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household without masks unless any of those people have an increased risk for severe illness from Covid-19.
- Travel. If you travel in the United States, you do not need to get tested before or after travel or self-quarantine after travel. For travel outside the United States, pay attention to the situation at your international destination. You still need to show a negative test result or documentation of recovery from Covid-19 before boarding a return flight to the United States. You should get tested 3-5 days after arriving in the United States, but you do not need to self-quarantine after your return.
- Go about your daily routine, even if you have been exposed to someone with Covid-19. You do not need to isolate or get tested unless you have symptoms.
Even if fully vaccinated, continue to follow these precautions:
- Wear a mask.
- Stay 6 feet apart from others.
- Avoid crowds and poorly ventilated spaces when in public.
- Do not gather with unvaccinated people from more than one household or visit an unvaccinated person at increased risk of severe illness or death from Covid-19.
- Avoid medium- or large-sized gatherings. This includes sporting events, concerts, festivals, work conferences, parades, weddings.
- Most routine medical procedures and screenings can be performed before or after vaccination, but experts recommend postponing mammograms until 4-6 weeks after receiving a Covid-19 vaccine. After the vaccine, many can have swelling in the lymph nodes in the underarm on the side of the shot. While this is normal, it can cause a false reading.
- If you have Covid-19 symptoms (fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle aches, headaches, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea), you should get tested and stay home and away from others.
While the CDC says travel is OK, some medical experts caution against it, which has created some confusion.
Dr. Michael Osterholm, director for the Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy, tried to clarify during a recent appearance on Meet the Press.
He said being vaccinated is like “buying a fire-proof suit that works 90-95% of the time but doesn’t work all the time. So why walk into a big fire if you don’t have to?”
Experts are worried about unvaccinated people being out and about because, as the virus spreads, there is a possibility of more mutations.
“If the variants mutate further, and make it so the vaccines no longer work, then we will be right back to where we were last fall before effective vaccines,” Megan Ranney, emergency room physician at Brown University, told CNN this month.
As for dining indoors at restaurants, the advice varies. Some experts favor waiting for further reduction in positivity rates before resuming indoor dining.
Dr. William Schaffner, professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University, said it is important to evaluate each situation. Are the restaurants well-ventilated and spacing tables far apart? Are all the staff masked and patrons masked when not eating? Have the people you are dining with been vaccinated?
“If so, enjoy. Better yet, eat outdoors,” he said.
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Susan Berger is a freelance journalist in Chicago and writes frequently for the Washington Post and Chicago Tribune. She was a 2019 fellow with the National Press Foundation Fellowship to study vaccines and spent time learning from leading experts Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Willam Schaffner and others at the NIH. She was recently selected for a May 2021 fellowship with the CDC through the Association of Health Care Journalists. She also has written for the New York Times, Health Magazine, National Post, Agence France-Presse, and CBC. Susan has appeared on BBC World News, CNN, WGN-TV, WTTW-TV and on CBC Radio. A life-long North Shore resident she not only attended New Trier High School but won an Illinois Press Association Award in 2002 for her coverage of the decision to open New Trier West to freshman-only. Her work can be viewed at www.bergerreport.com and you can follow her on Twitter @Msjournalist.