Elderly Woman

Updated April 13, 2021

Update: On April 13, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a statement recommending a pause in distribution of the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine out of caution as they investigate reported cases of Americans who developed a rare and serious blood clot after receiving the J&J vaccine. Currently, these blood clots appear to be rare. The pause will allow federal health officials to investigate the cases and make further recommendations. 

At UPMC, we are committed to the safety of our communities in our vaccination efforts. We are following federal guidance in the distribution of the J&J vaccine. We are pausing our distribution of the J&J vaccine pending the CDC investigation.

If you or a loved one received the J&J vaccine, do not panic. The reported adverse effects are extremely rare given the number of J&J vaccines distributed. Call your doctor if you experience side effects related to blood clots, including severe headache, arm or leg swelling, and/or shortness of breath. You do not have to start any medicines like aspirin to thwart blood clots.

The FDA has authorized three vaccines for use in the United States. The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines each require two shots spaced several weeks apart. The Johnson & Johnson/Janssen (J&J) vaccine requires only one shot.

Millions of Americans have received the vaccines and are now considered fully vaccinated. But guidelines still call for all Americans to stay cautious and take preventive measures, like mask-wearing, hand washing, and social distancing.

But as more people become fully vaccinated, they can — in certain situations — gather without masks.

What Does Fully Vaccinated Mean?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you are considered fully vaccinated if:

  • At least two weeks have passed since you received the second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine
  • At least two weeks have passed since you received the single dose of the J&J vaccine

If less than two weeks have passed since your final dose, or you have received only one dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, you are not fully vaccinated. You should continue to follow all preventive measures to protect against COVID-19 spread.

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What Should I Do After Being Fully Vaccinated?

You should continue to follow COVID-19 prevention efforts in most situations after being fully vaccinated. This includes wearing a mask, social distancing, practicing good hand hygiene, and avoiding crowds.

You should continue to follow any federal, state, and local guidelines about mask-wearing or other protective efforts.

You should also stay aware of COVID-19 symptoms, especially if you’ve been around someone who is sick.

On April 2, 2021, the CDC announced people who are fully vaccinated can travel safely within the United States. Unless required by their destination, they do not have to get tested before or after travel, and they do not have to self-quarantine. Fully vaccinated travelers should still wear a facemask, keep 6 feet of social distance, and wash their hands frequently, the CDC says.

Do I Have to Wear a Mask After I’ve Been Fully Vaccinated?

In most situations, you should continue to wear a mask.

Masks have shown effectiveness in preventing COVID-19 spread. They offer a layer of protection to you and the people around you.

CDC guidelines suggest two specific situations where people may skip masking and distancing indoors:

  • If a fully vaccinated household visits another fully vaccinated household in their own home
  • If a fully vaccinated household visits a household that is not fully vaccinated, as long no one in that household is at high risk of developing COVID-19 complications

It remains important to mask and distance any time you are with others who are not part of your household. To protect those who are vulnerable, wear a mask:

  • In public
  • When you are with an unvaccinated person at high risk of complications
  • When gathering with unvaccinated people from multiple households or in medium- or large-size gatherings.

If you start to experience COVID-19 symptoms, you should quarantine and call your doctor — even if you have been vaccinated.

“The new guidelines acknowledge vaccines are playing an important role in mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on our lives,” says Graham Snyder, MD, medical director, infection prevention and hospital epidemiology, UPMC. “All three COVID-19 vaccines are incredibly good at keeping people from having serious complications and keeping people from being symptomatic. All are seemingly quite good at keeping people from being contagious if exposed, but they’re not perfect. We must continue to wear a mask and maintain physical distance when in public to protect yourself and others.”

What Should I Do If I’m Exposed to COVID-19 After Being Vaccinated?

According to the CDC, if you are fully vaccinated, you do not have to quarantine after being exposed to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 as long as you are not experiencing symptoms.

The CDC says fully vaccinated people should still monitor themselves for symptoms for 14 days after exposure. If you begin to experience COVID-19 symptoms in that time, you should quarantine and get tested for COVID-19. Let your provider know your vaccination status when you get tested.

  • People who live in large, non-health care group settings like correctional and detention facilities or group homes should still quarantine and get tested after being exposed to suspected or confirmed COVID-19, even if they’re fully vaccinated. Such settings have a higher resident turnover and higher risk of transmission, the CDC says.
  • Fully vaccinated people who work in large, non-health care settings like processing or manufacturing plants do not have to quarantine after being exposed to COVID-19 if they are not experiencing symptoms. The CDC does recommend getting tested after exposure.

If you are not yet fully vaccinated, you should quarantine for 14 days after exposure and monitor yourself for symptoms. If symptoms develop, call your doctor.

When Will Life Get Back to Normal?

The authorization and distribution of the three COVID-19 vaccines are important developments in getting back to normal. So is the ongoing development of other potential COVID-19 vaccines, treatments, and/or tests.

Although millions of Americans have already received vaccines, it likely will take months to distribute the vaccine to enough people to stop the COVID-19 spread. Although the new CDC guidelines are a promising step, it is still important to take precautions.

“Pandemics are dynamic,” Dr. Snyder says. “It’s important to note that this is guidance for today, and there’s a possibility in the future we may have to restrict activities again. I hope this is part of a stepwise process. As we do better in the pandemic, we can continue to make incremental changes toward normalcy.”

Please be patient and continue to follow COVID-19 prevention efforts like wearing a mask and social distancing. These efforts help to save lives.

For more information, visit UPMC.com/COVID19.

Sources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, When You've Been Fully Vaccinated. Link

About UPMC

Headquartered in Pittsburgh, UPMC is a world-renowned health care provider and insurer. We operate 40 hospitals and 700 doctors’ offices and outpatient centers, with locations in central and western Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, and internationally. We employ 4,900 physicians, and we are leaders in clinical care, groundbreaking research, and treatment breakthroughs. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as one of the nation’s best hospitals in many specialties and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals.