The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finally released guidelines for what activities people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can and cannot do. According to CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, M.D., M.P.H., these recommendations are “based upon the latest science” and count as an important step toward getting back to normalcy.
It should be noted that individuals are considered fully vaccinated 14 days after they have received their second shot of either of the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, or 14 days after they have received a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
What Are the CDC Guidelines for Fully Vaccinated People?
The CDC says that fully vaccinated people can visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or observing physical distancing. They can also do the same with unvaccinated people from a single other household, if everyone in that household is at low risk for severe COVID-19. Fully vaccinated people can also avoid mandated quarantining and testing after they have been exposed to the virus if they remain asymptomatic.
Even with these new freedoms, the updated guidelines caution that fully vaccinated people should continue to maintain social distancing and wear well-fitted masks in public and especially while visiting with unvaccinated people who are at increased risk for severe COVID-19, whether indoors or outside.
The guidelines go on to warn against attending medium- and large-sized in-person gatherings altogether and emphasize that fully vaccinated individuals should continue to follow guidance issued by individual employers as well as travel requirements. Most importantly, it makes clear that anyone experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should get tested, whether they have been fully vaccinated or not.
What the CDC Guidelines for Fully Vaccinated People Mean
Being fully vaccinated does not count as a get-out-of-jail-free card. Much like safer-sex precautions against sexually transmitted infections, it requires individuals to actively protect their health, as well as the health of others. In other words, avoid crowded situations and spaces with low ventilation, such as sex dungeons, dance clubs, or backrooms in bars.
[Related: I Got the COVID Vaccine! Now Can I Go Back to Normal? (The Short Answer Is No.)
Visits between fully vaccinated individuals and those who have not yet been vaccinated carry a low risk for the fully vaccinated person, even if they are not maintaining physical distancing or wearing masks. As an example, the guidelines state that fully vaccinated grandparents can visit with their grandchildren, if the kids are healthy, because they count as people with low risk for infection.
However, the guidelines state that fully vaccinated individuals should continue to wear masks and observe physical distancing if they are visiting with unvaccinated people who are at risk for severe COVID-19, such as those living with an existing comorbidity.
While the guidelines do not explain why, previous news releases have suggested that fully vaccinated individuals can potentially serve as carriers if they have been exposed to the virus. In that instance, someone who has been fully vaccinated may encounter and fight off the virus but inadvertently pass it on to an unvaccinated individual.
The hope is that as many people as possible will get vaccinated so that society can reopen safely. As always, the key word is “safety”—and the only way for that to happen is for increased vaccine access, regardless of perceived “hesitancy.”
If you have any questions about the latest information from various states and local jurisdictions regarding COVID vaccine priority for people living with HIV, check out our recently updated resource. For more information about the new guidelines for fully vaccinated people, read the full interim report at the CDC.