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As more people receive a COVID-19 vaccine, questions may come up about what that really means, and how that will change our lifestyles moving forward. Below are a few questions and answers you may have after you receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

Note: This article has been updated since its first release, as the CDC announced new guidelines on March 8th around post-vaccination behaviors.

Q: Can a COVID-19 vaccine make me sick with COVID-19?

A: No. None of the COVID-19 vaccines being authorized or recommended contain the virus that causes COVID-19. Therefore, the COVID-19 vaccine cannot make you sick with COVID-19 (CDC, 2021a). Each COVID-19 vaccine teaches the immune system how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19. The vaccine may cause symptoms such as a fever, which are signs that the body is building protection against the virus (CDC, 2021a).

Q: When am I considered “fully vaccinated”?

A: Full vaccination means two weeks after your final dose of the vaccine (second dose for Pfizer and Moderna, and the first dose for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine)(CDC, 2021c). Your body needs time to build this immunity, so do not think that once you get your shot, you obtain immediate immunity.

Q: Does getting the vaccine mean I am immune to COVID-19?

A: Not 100%. The vaccines administered by the three companies do not create 100% immunity. This means that there is still a chance you could get infected with COVID-19. The vaccination, however, will protect you from getting severely ill due to the virus (CDC, 2021a). Vaccinated people should still watch for symptoms if they had recent contact with someone who had COVID-19 (CDC, 2021c). In addition, remember that it takes time for the body to build protection. Protection takes about two weeks after the final dose of the vaccine (CDC, 2021b).

Q: What do I need to do if I get COVID-19 AFTER vaccination?

A: If you know you have been exposed to someone who was diagnosed with COVID-19 AFTER you are vaccinated, continue to monitor your symptoms. Fully vaccinated people who are asymptomatic do not need to quarantine or be tested if they were exposed to someone who had COVID-19, as their risk of infection is low. (CDC, 2021c).However, if you start getting COVID-19 symptoms, you should get proper testing, and quarantine yourself to prevent others from being infected.

Q: Does getting the vaccine mean I won’t spread the virus to others at all?

A: The answer is unclear, and research is being conducted. According to the CDC’s announcement on March 8, 2021, recent studies indicate that those who are vaccinated are less likely to have asymptomatic infection and possibly less likely to transmit the virus to others (CDC, 2021c).  Even if you are vaccinated, the CDC still asks you to continue the practice of wearing masks, limiting physical contact with others, and regular handwashing especially in public areas.

Q: Do I need to continue wearing a mask after I’m vaccinated?

A: Yes, in public areas. The vaccine is an added prevention strategy ALONG WITH wearing masks to keep the virus from spreading. Continuing best practices (handwashing, wearing masks, physical distancing) remains relevant and important (Ianzito, 2021).

Q: Does life return to normal once I’m vaccinated? Can I travel again, or go to large gatherings?

A:  Not just yet. For public spaces, continuing to wear masks and keeping distances are key measures to continue since not everyone is vaccinated. The CDC also asks to refrain from meeting in medium or large sized in-person gatherings, and travel restrictions remain the same (unnecessary travel should be discouraged at this time) (CDC, 2021c). Vaccines are just a part of the overall prevention strategy (Clopton, 2021).

Currently, CDC guidelines say fully vaccinated individuals can meet the following people indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing:

  • Meet other fully vaccinated individuals
  • Meet with unvaccinated individuals from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19

If there are any individuals who are unvaccinated and at an increased risk for COVID-19, or living with anyone at risk for severe COVID-19 disease, masks and proper distancing should be maintained at this time even if you are vaccinated (CDC, 2021c). The CDC also recommends that you do take proper distancing and mask wearing if seeing people from multiple households who are unvaccinated as well.

Q: After I am fully vaccinated, can I hug my grandchildren?

A: The answer depends. Children are not able to receive the vaccine yet. If they are at a risk of getting severe COVID-19, proper distancing protocol should be enforced to keep your grandchildren safe (CDC, 2021c). Individuals should assess what risk to take.

Q: If two people are fully vaccinated, is it safe for them to hug?

A: Technically, yes. The new guidelines announced on March 8 by the CDC show that individual, private gatherings may be held without distancing. However, note that the CDC does NOT endorse medium- and large-sized gathering at this time (CDC, 2021c).

*Please remember that the COVID-19 vaccines are new vaccines. Information is changing rapidly and the answers to these questions may change over time. Please continue to wear masks and stay home as much as possible to keep yourselves and others safe.

Sources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021a). Myths and Facts about COVID-19 Vaccines. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/facts.html

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021b). What to Expect after Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/expect/after.html

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021c). Guidance for Fully Vaccinated People. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated-guidance.html

Clopton, J. (2021). COVID FAQ: I got the Vaccine. Is Life Normal Again? Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/vaccines/covid-19-vaccine/news/20210203/covid-faq-i-got-the-vaccine-is-life-normal-again

Clopton, J. (2021). COVID FAQ: I got the Vaccine. Is Life Normal Again? Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/vaccines/covid-19-vaccine/news/20210203/covid-faq-i-got-the-vaccine-is-life-normal-again

Ianzito, C. (2021). Can You Hug Your Grandkids After Receiving the COVID-19 Vaccine? Retrieved from https://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-2021/hugging-after-covid-vaccine.html