What's Safe After Your COVID-19 Vaccine?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to monitor the spread of COVID-19 and recommends wearing face masks, both for those who are fully vaccinated and those who are not fully vaccinated.
The CDC also recommends that masks and physical distancing be required at doctor’s offices, hospitals and long-term care facilities.
Johns Hopkins Medicine’s current safety guidelines require everyone to wear masks inside all of our facilities.
Namandje Bumpus, Ph.D., an expert in pharmacology and molecular science, answers your questions.
When am I considered “fully vaccinated”?
According to CDC guidelines, you are fully vaccinated:
- Two weeks after your second dose in a two-dose series of vaccines such as Pfizer or Moderna.
- Two weeks after a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. However, data from clinical trials is clear that there is further improvement four weeks after the single-shot vaccine, especially in preventing severe COVID-19 and having asymptomatic infection. For this reason, Johns Hopkins Medicine recommends that four weeks after the single-dose vaccine be considered full vaccination.
If I’m fully vaccinated, am I protected if I’m exposed to someone who has COVID-19?
The vaccine protects you from the most severe illness and death from COVID-19, but you can still catch the virus and transmit it to others. “You should get tested three to five days after that exposure,” Bumpus says. “While you are awaiting test results, and after if the test is positive for coronavirus infection, isolate yourself from others as much as possible and wear a mask, even indoors at home, if you have unvaccinated children or other vulnerable household members.
Does being fully vaccinated protect me from coronavirus variants?
“We need to maintain safeguards for a while as we watch what happens with the currently circulating coronavirus variants,” Bumpus says. “We need to take the time to get the facts and figure out each step at a time. A measured approach is essential.”
So far, Bumpus explains, the COVID-19 vaccines offer at least some protection from the circulating coronavirus variants, including the highly contagious delta variant. If a vaccinated person catches a variant, the vaccine is likely to protect him or her from a serious case of COVID-19.
She adds that COVID-19 vaccines protect not only individuals but also the community. “The more people who are vaccinated for [COVID-19], the fewer infections will happen, and fewer infections mean fewer chances for the coronavirus to mutate,” Bumpus says.
“I think the biggest issue right now in addressing the pandemic is the importance of vaccination in limiting the number and prevalence of infections and the emergence of new variants,” she says. “A great thing is that these vaccines are nimble — we can modify them [to accommodate mutations]. Even though these variants are not fully understood, we have science on our side in addressing them.”
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Get information and updates from Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Updated August 30, 2021