Disclaimer: At UPMC HealthBeat, we strive to provide the most up-to-date facts in our stories when we publish them. We also make updates to our content as information changes. However, education about COVID-19 can shift quickly based on new data, emerging variants, or other factors. The information in this story was accurate as of its publish date. We also encourage you to visit other reliable websites for updated information, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and your state and local governments.
Update: On May 13, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released updated guidelines for fully vaccinated people. People who are fully vaccinated can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by laws, rules, or regulations established by a government, business, or workplace.
Please note: All visitors to UPMC facilities, including hospitals or ambulatory locations, must continue to wear a facemask that covers their nose and mouth, even after they are fully vaccinated. For more information, see our updated visitor policy. We thank everyone for their cooperation.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized four vaccines for use in the United States. The Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Novavax vaccines each require two shots spaced several weeks apart. The Johnson & Johnson/Janssen (J&J) vaccine currently requires only one shot.
Millions of Americans have received the vaccines and are now considered fully vaccinated. As more people become fully vaccinated, they can resume many activities without masking or physically distancing.
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, Pfizer, or Novavax 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, Pfizer, or Novavax 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 any laws and regulations, including business and work guidelines, about mask-wearing and other COVID-19 preventive efforts like physical distancing.
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. The CDC still recommends that travelers wear a facemask, keep 6 feet of social distance, and wash their hands frequently. For more travel recommendations, see the CDC website.
Do I Have to Wear a Mask After I’ve Been Fully Vaccinated?
According to the CDC, most fully vaccinated people do not have to wear a facemask if the spread of COVID-19 in their community is low. If there is a medium level of COVID-19 spread in your community, you should talk to your doctor about wearing a mask indoors in public, especially if you’re immunocompromised or at high risk of severe illness. If there is a high level of COVID-19 spread in your community, you should wear a mask indoors in public, even if you’re fully vaccinated.
When choosing activities, you should keep in mind the number of people participating, the location, and how COVID-19 is spreading in the community. In general, outdoor or well-ventilated gatherings with fewer people are better.
Fully vaccinated people should continue to wear a mask in health care settings and where required by law or regulation, including business and workplace guidances.
At UPMC, we are still requiring all visitors to our facilities, including hospitals and ambulatory locations, to wear a mask, even if they are fully vaccinated.
The CDC also recommends wearing a mask during travel (airplanes, trains, buses, etc.) and while in transportation hubs like airports, bus depots, and train stations.
Vaccination does not guarantee that you will not get sick from COVID-19 or be contagious to others if you are exposed to the virus. If you start to experience COVID-19 symptoms, you should quarantine and call your doctor about getting tested for COVID-19 — even if you have been vaccinated.
Also, if you are immunocompromised — from a medical condition like cancer, HIV, diabetes, or transplant or from certain medical treatments — talk to your doctor. People with compromised immune systems are less likely to have a good immune response to the vaccine and may remain vulnerable to COVID-19, even after vaccination. If you or a loved one is immunocompromised, you may still need to practice preventive efforts like mask-wearing even after vaccination.
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 10 days after exposure. You should get tested for COVID-19 after five days, even if you don’t have symptoms. If you begin to experience COVID-19 symptoms, you should quarantine and get tested for COVID-19. Let your provider know your vaccination status when you get tested.
If you are not yet fully vaccinated, you should quarantine for at least five days after exposure, wear a mask around others, and get tested after five days. You should monitor yourself for symptoms for at least 10 days. If symptoms develop, call your doctor.
When Will Life Get Back to Normal?
The 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.
Please be patient and continue to follow COVID-19 prevention efforts like wearing a mask and social distancing where required. These efforts help to save lives.
For more information, visit UPMC.com/COVID19.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, When You've Been Fully Vaccinated. Link
Headquartered in Pittsburgh, UPMC is a world-renowned health care provider and insurer. We operate 40 hospitals and 800 doctors’ offices and outpatient centers, with locations throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, West Virginia, 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. We are dedicated to providing Life Changing Medicine to our communities.