People fully vaccinated against the novel coronavirus can visit other fully vaccinated individuals indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing, and small gatherings likely represent minimal risks to them, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in new guidance Monday.
“Taking steps towards relaxing certain measures for vaccinated persons may help improve COVID-19 vaccine acceptance and uptake,” the CDC said. “There are several activities that fully vaccinated people can resume now, at low risk to themselves, while being mindful of the potential risk of transmitting the virus to others.”
Individuals are considered fully vaccinated at least two weeks after they receive the second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, or at least two weeks after they receive a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to the CDC.
Indoor visits between fully vaccinated people and unvaccinated people who do not wear masks or physically distance also pose a low risk for vaccinated individuals, according to the CDC.
So, unvaccinated individuals can visit with fully vaccinated individuals indoors without wearing masks if the unvaccinated people are from a single household that does not have individuals at risk of severe COVID-19, the CDC said.
The CDC has outlined which individuals may be at risk for severe disease, which includes older adults, pregnant women, or those with certain medical conditions.
There is a higher risk of transmission in gatherings with multiple households of unvaccinated people, according to the CDC, so people in those types of gatherings should wear a well-fitted mask, maintain a 6-foot distance from others, and stay outdoors or in a well-ventilated space.
Even though the risk of disease may be minimal for vaccinated people themselves, they should be mindful of the potential risk of transmitting the virus to others, epecially if they are visiting with unvaccinated people at increased risk for severe illness from the virus, the CDC said.
Fully vaccinated people should still refrain from gathering if they have tested positive for the virus in the 10 days prior to the gathering or are experiencing symptoms, the CDC said.
However, fully vaccinated individuals can refrain from quarantining and getting tested after a known COVID-19 exposure if they have no symptoms, the CDC said. Fully vaccinated people who do not quarantine should still monitor symptoms for 14 days following an exposure.
Additionally, the risk of infection during public social activities, such as dining indoors or going to the gym, is lower for fully vaccinated individuals.
However, health and safety precautions should still be taken in these settings as the risk of transmission is higher and likely increases with the number of unvaccinated people, the CDC said.
How long vaccine protection lasts and how much the vaccines protect against virus variants is still under investigation, the CDC, but relaxing certain measures for vaccinated individuals could help reduce vaccine hesitation.
“Until more is known and vaccination coverage increases, some prevention measures will continue to be necessary for all people, regardless of vaccination status,” the CDC said.
“However, the benefits of reducing social isolation and relaxing some measures such as quarantine requirements may outweigh the residual risk of fully vaccinated people becoming ill with COVID-19 or transmitting SARS-CoV-2 to others.”
Fully vaccinated individuals should continue to adhere to COVID-19 prevention measures when visiting unvaccinated people who are at risk for severe disease, and visiting unvaccinated people from multiple households.
All people, regardless of vaccination status, should adhere to the current guidance to avoid medium-sized and large-sized gatherings and follow any applicable local guidance restricting the size of gatherings, according to the CDC.
Fully vaccinated people should continue to watch for COVID-19-like symptoms, especially following an exposure to someone suspected or confirmed to have the virus.
Common coronavirus symptoms include fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headaches, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea.
If symptoms develop, all people regardless of vaccination status should isolate and be clinically evaluated for the virus if indicated, according to the CDC.
Fully vaccinated residents of non-healthcare congregate settings, including correction and detention facilities or group homes, should still continue to quarantine for 14 days and be tested following an exposure, the CDC said.
Residential congregate settings may face a high turnover of residents, a higher risk of transmission, and challenges in maintaining the recommended physical distancing, so quarantine and testing are still advised.
Fully vaccinated employees of non-healthcare congregate settings and other high-density workplaces that aren’t reporting any COVID-19 symptoms do not need to quarantine following an exposure, however testing and routine workplace screening programs are still recommended, according to the CDC.