Efforts to end the COVID-19 pandemic finally became possible when, in December 2020, the FDA authorised the use of the first COVID-19 vaccine, manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech. Soon after, two additional vaccines from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson also received emergency authorisation for use. As of 8 March 2021, over 31 million people in the U.S. have completed their vaccination.
As the number of vaccinated people increases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released its initial public health recommendations for individuals who are fully vaccinated. Fully vaccinated people are those who are at least two weeks out from having received their second Pfizer-BioNtech or Moderna vaccine dose or their single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
These CDC recommendations could be the first step towards resuming our normal, pre-pandemic lives - at least for those who have been fully vaccinated. The recommendations are based on findings that have demonstrated the efficacy of the vaccines among adults of different ages, races and ethnicity, as well as those with underlying conditions. Also, there is evidence that if fully vaccinated people get infected, they are less likely to develop severe coronavirus disease, be hospitalised or die. Hence, preliminary evidence suggests that fully vaccinated people pose little risk of transmission to people who are unvaccinated. The vaccines also provide protection against SARS-CoV-2 variants, even if in some variants, the efficacy and antibody neutralisation is reduced.
While the CDC will continue to monitor the effects of these mutations on the COVID-19 vaccine, following are the interim recommendations for fully vaccinated people:
- Fully vaccinated people can visit other fully vaccinated people without masks or physical distancing.
- They can visit with unvaccinated people from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 indoors, without masks or physical distancing.
- They do not have to quarantine or have a test following an exposure if they are asymptomatic.
However, fully vaccinated people should still:
- Continue to take precautions in public and swear a mask and practice physical distancing.
- Wear masks, practice physical distancing and adhere to other prevention measures when visiting unvaccinated people who are at an increased risk of severe COVID-19 disease or if they have a household member who is unvaccinated and at an increased risk for severe COVID-19.
- Wear marks, practice physical distancing and adhere to other prevention measures when visiting unvaccinated people from multiple households.
- Continue to avoid medium and large-sized gatherings.
- Get tested if they experience COVID-19 symptoms.
- Follow any guidance issued by their employers.
- Follow CDC and health department travel requirements and recommendations.
CDC guidelines will continue to evolve as more people get vaccinated, and new data emerge. CDC still recommends prevention measures for everyone, whether they are vaccinated or non-vaccinated. As more people become vaccinated, restrictions are likely to be readdressed.
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