Two women have a talk in the park while wearing masks and social distancing
Two women have a talk in the park while wearing masks and social distancing
Two women have a talk in the park while wearing masks and social distancing

What's Safe After Your COVID-19 Vaccine?

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Updated May 25

On May 13, 2021, the CDC revised safety guidelines for those who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. The updated guidelines state that fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance. The CDC continues to recommend that masks and physical distancing are required when going to the doctor’s office, hospitals or long-term care facilities, including all Johns Hopkins hospitals, care centers and offices.

Johns Hopkins Medicine’s current safety guidelines have not changed and we still require all individuals to wear masks inside all of our facilities.

When am I considered “fully vaccinated”?

According to CDC guidelines, you are fully vaccinated when it has been:

  • Two weeks after your second dose in a two-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
  • Two weeks after a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. However, data from clinical trials are clear that there is further improvement four weeks after the single-shot vaccine, especially for preventing severe COVID-19 or having asymptomatic infection. For this reason, Johns Hopkins Medicine recommends four weeks after the single-dose vaccine to be considered fully vaccinated.

Can I get together with other people if I’m fully vaccinated for COVID-19?

Yes, but certain conditions are safer than others. Namandje Bumpus, Ph.D., an expert in pharmacology and molecular science, says “Even among a few people, the virus can spread, and we strongly recommend against people from multiple households getting together without precautions if some are unvaccinated.”

Here are some tips:

Outdoor Gatherings After You’re Fully Vaccinated: What’s Safer

  • Outdoor events are preferred for celebrations.
  • When you’re getting together outside where you’re not sure of everyone’s vaccine status, maintain 6 feet of physical distancing.
  • Hosts should be cautious and make safe and appropriate choices, keeping in mind that some members of your group may not be vaccinated.
  • Unvaccinated guests should continue to wear masks and practice physical distancing for their own safety, and it is safest for everyone to maintain distance.

Indoor Gatherings After You’re Fully Vaccinated: What’s Safer

In general, the CDC has said it is now OK for people who are fully vaccinated to return to activities without masks. However, fully vaccinated people should continue wearing masks when in specific areas, such as health care settings and on public transportation and in other situations. See the full list of CDC guidelines.

Johns Hopkins experts continue to advise people to be careful and continue wearing masks if you are indoors with people who may not be vaccinated. Why?

  • It is impossible to know who is or isn’t vaccinated when you enter a store, entertainment venue, house of worship or social gathering.
  • Some unvaccinated people might stop wearing masks, since most public places are not asking individuals for proof of having been vaccinated.
  • Going without a mask in public when you haven’t been fully vaccinated puts yourself and others at risk. As of now, most people in the U.S. have not yet been fully vaccinated, including children 11 or under.

Can I hug my grandchildren?

Older adults are especially eager to interact with children in their families after more than a year of being apart. Bumpus says that once grandparents are fully vaccinated, they can hug unvaccinated grandkids when those children are all living in one household and are not at high risk for severe COVID disease (for example, immunocompromised kids).

COVID-19 vaccines are now authorized for everyone age 12 and older. Once the data show that the vaccines are safe for children under age 12, younger kids also will be eligible for vaccination.

“As far as children’s role in catching or transmitting COVID-19, we are still learning and evaluating data,” Bumpus says. “While data show that kids are less likely to develop severe illness from COVID-19 compared with adults, some kids, especially those with certain health conditions, are still at risk.”

What about getting together in person with other friends and family?

Bumpus suggests looking at each situation individually. “With children, relatives and friends, open and honest discussions are necessary, even more than we are used to,” she says.

“Even if you have been fully vaccinated, when you are deciding about spending time in close proximity with older people and those with health problems, ask questions about vaccination and risk, and invite honest answers. Don’t assume that people are safe or that they feel comfortable interacting with others yet.”

I’m fully vaccinated: When will life go back to normal?

“People who have been fully vaccinated can feel safer when they are out among other people,” says Bumpus, “but we need to stay diligent about protecting those who haven’t yet received their vaccines.”

The reason? The coronavirus vaccines can prevent you from becoming seriously ill with COVID-19. But even if you have been vaccinated you might still be able to pick up the coronavirus, harbor it in your body without any symptoms (asymptomatic infection) and pass it to another person. New data show that the risk of this is low, but it’s not zero.

In the meantime, wearing your mask and maintaining physical distancing from others when you are in public places protect you from possibly infecting those who have not yet received their vaccines.

“Although every day, more people receive COVID-19 vaccines, many others have not yet been able to get them. Access to the vaccinations is still an issue,” Bumpus says. Once a large enough majority of people is vaccinated, it still might take a while before life returns to a pre-pandemic level of ease and freedom.”

Does being fully vaccinated protect me from coronavirus variants?

“We might need to maintain some safeguards for a while as we watch what happens with any currently circulating coronavirus variants,” she 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. Even 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 coronavirus vaccines protect not only individuals, but also the community at large. She explains: “The more people who are vaccinated for the coronavirus, the fewer infections will happen, and fewer infections mean fewer chances for the coronavirus to mutate.”

“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. 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,” she says.

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