The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have come out with new guidelines for people who are vaccinated against covid-19. Chief among them is the reassurance that fully vaccinated people can safely spend time indoors unmasked with other vaccinated people and even unvaccinated people in certain situations. It still calls for these people to practice some caution while in public and around those who are at high risk of serious illness from the viral disease.
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People are considered fully vaccinated against covid-19 starting two weeks after receiving their last scheduled dose of a covid-19 vaccine. For those who get the Moderna or Pfizer/BioNTech, that means two doses, taken a month apart, while those who get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine only require one dose. The new CDC guidelines, released Monday, center around what’s safe for fully vaccinated people to do now.
They state that fully vaccinated people can socialize with other fully vaccinated people in small gatherings indoors without needing to wear masks or stay six feet apart. They can also visit unvaccinated people in a single household without protection if the other people are considered at low risk for serious illness. And they won’t need to adhere to quarantine and testing if they come into contact with people who develop covid-19, so long as they stay symptom-free.
“We know that people want to get vaccinated so they can get back to doing the things they enjoy with the people they love,” said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky in a statement released today.
The vaccine rollout in the U.S., following a shaky start, is now accelerating. Last Saturday, a reported 2.9 million Americans were vaccinated, a new daily record. It’s expected that daily vaccinations will only increase with the recent release of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine and increased supplies of the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines. Real-world data also has shown the high effectiveness and safety of the latter two vaccines, and there is growing evidence that all three vaccines are effective at preventing transmission of the viral illness. Perhaps most importantly, daily cases and deaths as well as total hospitalizations related to covid-19 continue to decline after the holiday surge.
As encouraging as all this is, though, there is still a need for vigilance. Experts remain worried that the spread of more transmissible variants and the relaxing of restrictions on mask wearing and indoor activities could lead to a resurgence of the pandemic, if only temporarily. All three vaccines do appear to offer protection against the most worrying variants, but this protection may be diminished. Currently, only around 9% of the U.S. is fully vaccinated.
Once more of the population becomes vaccinated and the spread of the pandemic drops to minimal levels, it’ll be safe to socialize in large gatherings and do all the things we used to do. But for now, we just need to hold on a bit longer.
“Everyone—even those who are vaccinated—should continue with all mitigation strategies when in public settings,” Walensky said. “As the science evolves and more people get vaccinated, we will continue to provide more guidance to help fully vaccinated people safely resume more activities.”
Born and raised in NYC, Ed covers public health, disease, and weird animal science for Gizmodo. He has previously reported for the Atlantic, Vice, Pacific Standard, and Undark Magazine.