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WASHINGTON — People who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 can now spend time together indoors and unmasked, according to new Biden administration guidance.

Fully immunized Americans can also visit with low-risk individuals from other households even if they haven’t yet received a vaccine. And if vaccinated individuals are exposed to Covid-19, there’s no need to either quarantine or get tested for the disease, according to new recommendations released Monday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We know that people want to get vaccinated so they can get back to doing the things they enjoy with the people they love,” Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director, said in prepared remarks. “There are some activities that fully vaccinated people can begin to resume now in the privacy of their own homes. Everyone — even those who are vaccinated — should continue with all mitigation strategies when in public settings.”

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The CDC considers Americans “fully vaccinated” once two weeks have passed since they received the final dose of their vaccine regimen. In the case of vaccines developed by Moderna and the Pfizer-BioNTech partnership, which have been authorized for emergency use since December, that means the second of two shots. For the recently authorized Johnson & Johnson vaccine, it means two weeks after a single injection.

Roughly 31 million Americans, or 9.2% of the population, are fully vaccinated, Walensky estimated. But the country’s ongoing vaccination campaign means that number will soon spike. The country is administering over 2 million vaccine doses per day, on average, and President Biden last week promised that the country would have enough supply to vaccinate any adult who wants a vaccine by the end of May.

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Drug manufacturers are in the process of dramatically ramping up the production of all three vaccines, and the Biden administration recently announced an unusual partnership through which the drug giant Merck, which failed to develop a Covid-19 vaccine, will help to manufacture Johnson & Johnson’s.

Public health officials have been largely cautious about recommending that people return to relative normalcy even after being vaccinated. Some of their hesitancy has stemmed from fears of “vaccine euphoria,” in which the public abandons Covid-19 mitigation strategies in the wake of good news about vaccine distribution.

Others have expressed fears that while each of the Covid-19 vaccines is highly effective at preventing serious illness, hospitalization, and death, it’s less clear whether they prevent vaccinated individuals from being infected and transmitting the disease to more unvaccinated or otherwise vulnerable people. Recent data from Israel, however, show that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is highly effective at reducing transmission.

Walensky, nonetheless, was guarded in her analysis of whether individuals who’ve been vaccinated can resume normal activity.

“We’re still waiting for data to emerge about whether they could transmit that virus to other people,” she said, when asked why vaccinated individuals should continue to wear masks in public.

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has been particularly cautious. He warned late last month that even fully vaccinated Americans should wait to enjoy indoor restaurant meals or go to movies.

The caution has led some public health experts to fear that the downcast messaging will disincentivize Americans from seeking vaccines by suggesting, effectively, that even fully immunized Americans can’t enjoy pre-pandemic activities.

Walensky said that despite CDC’s guidance on in-person visits, all Americans should avoid large indoor gatherings regardless of vaccination status. Similarly, she said vaccinated people should wear masks and physically distance in other public settings, like a gym.

And she reiterated that the CDC’s guidance on travel has not changed: For the moment, the agency recommends that even fully vaccinated Americans refrain from intercity travel on trains, buses, and airplanes.

  • What should be done if you have one unvaccinated person at a community potluck of 20-30 people who chose not to be vaccinated, but everyone else has their 2 vaccines? what precautions need to be taken?

    • Nothing if people are vaccinated properly. One person that is non vaccinated should not affect the other 29 vaccinated people.

  • I’m 82 yr old and fully vaccinated.
    Can I fly to Boston MA and
    to San Francisco CA in May 2021 ?

  • I’ve been symptom-free since a positive Covid Test Jan.4.
    I received Moderna #1 on Feb. 26.
    Have I enough anti-bodies at this point (March 9) to see my grand-children (with masks)??? My #2 Moderna not scheduled until April 2.
    I am 78.

  • Is it safe for a fully vaccinated person to interact with a person that has had the virus but now tests negative?

  • Should fully vaccinated people still wear masks and wash hands before handling babies and young children? If so please stress this practice.

    • Marian, the function of the vaccine is to alert or prepare the body to defend itself against a specific antigen. When you get vaccinated your body secrets antibodies that will protect you against that specific pathogen in case it attacks you. Vaccination is like having an army, the army is there to protect you but doesn’t mean you’ll not be attacked. Therefore, you’ll be infected or get re-infected and also infect others anytime even if you have been vaccinated but the difference is that you already possess the antibodies (army) that protect you immediately you are attacked, preventing the organism from reproducing compared to someone who didn’t get the vaccine where the organism multiplies freely and establishes itself and also destroys all the body defense memory system leading to suppression of your immune system and destruction of the body system.

    • So if you’ve had the virus, you have the army of antibodies standing by already. If you’ve had the virus, why would you need a vaccine? Shouldn’t the CDC specifically call out the same recommendations for those that have already had the virus? Why are they left out of the CDC recommendations?

    • N Steele, because the CDC is clueless and politically driven not CDC driven.

      Previous infection does not protect from the Brazil variant.

  • Exactly, Steve W, and that is the way it should have been from the beginning. Life for the entire world should have gone on as it always has during these kinds of public health concerns, except for those who need to be cautious due to co-morbidities and other health factors.

  • I don’t understand why they’re are saying that people that have been fully vaccinated can gather with others indoors without masks when my friend who works in the medical field was vaccinated for both vaccines in mid January and two weeks ago she tested positive COVID-19 She lost her smell and taste and she transmit COVID to her young child so I don’t think the CDC should be saying. They probably don’t know how these vaccinations work

    • Roxy, 1. They need a period of at least three months after vaccination to be fully protected by the vaccine but people are not following the right procedures because they got the vaccine. 2. She tested positive because she was still possessing CVD-19 antibodies activated by the vaccine in her blood and because they used antibody tests for testing. Antibody tests detect the presence of antibodies and if you have been vaccinated, the activated antibodies will appear in blood till the antigen is cleared in blood therefore the reason she tests positive is because she still possess antibodies activated by the vaccine. 3. The cause of the young child’s infection may be because the mother’s working in an infectious environment and she is not observing safety precautions before leaving the health facility, for example I have seen many medical workers in bars with scrubs and just from work with all their nosocomial infections. Some young Doctors moving with their gowns and stethoscopes in their necks on the streets after work. Till we address this kind of behaviors in the medical field then the chain of infection will be broken. Thank you

    • Roxy and Omar. Vaccine does not protect 100%. That is why it is 95% effective for Pfizer and Moderna and lower for some other brand. In the trials, some small percentage of people still get covid19 after completing the required period for vaccination and development of antibodies. Those people fall on the 5%.

      That is why they don’t claim vaccine is not 100% effective. Of for CDC, their are politically driven instead of science driven.

  • Thank you for the update on vaccinated people , as an older adult ,I just wish people would be more considerate of others the way were taught. Thank you

  • I had my second Moderna shot on Feb 28. I’m planning to fly from Buffalo to Savannah for a week leaving on April 8. I plan to wear 2 masks. Is this a foolish decision to go through a couple airports and sit on a plane at this point in time?
    Thanks. Evelyn

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