Caution still recommended even after full vaccination against COVID-19

New guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that people who are fully vaccinated can gather in small groups without masks or social distancing. But, a D.C.-area infectious disease expert said people shouldn’t let their guards down completely.

“It’s important to avoid crowds; it’s important to avoid poorly ventilated spaces and gathering in those types of spaces. It’s still really critical to wash your hands,” said Dr. Mona Gahunia, an infectious disease physician leading Kaiser Permanente’s vaccine program.

The CDC guidance said that fully vaccinated individuals should avoid medium- and large-sized in-person gatherings, “Which I would interpret as 10 or fewer, based on prior CDC guidance,” Gahunia said.

Because it’s unclear whether vaccination prevents someone from spreading the virus asymptomatically, people fully vaccinated should “wear masks, practice physical distancing and adhere to other prevention measures when visiting with unvaccinated people who are at increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease or who have an unvaccinated household member who is at increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease,” the CDC guidance states.

Gahunia believes that even in situations where everyone within a group is vaccinated, “You may want to consider wearing masks; it really just depends on the risk level of the individuals involved.”

What does it mean to be fully vaccinated?

Immunity is not achieved the moment vaccine gets into your arm. “That means two weeks after you’ve received a two-dose series and completed the second dose, or two weeks after you receive the J&J single-dose vaccine,” Gahunia said.

As for how long you might be protected once you’re fully vaccinated?

“At this time, we do not know exactly how long the immunity from the COVID-19 vaccines will last. The vaccines are still new, and the long-term efficacy is still being studied. Immunity may last anywhere from several months up to a year or two,” Gahunia said.

Gahunia also notes that everything could change quickly with the circulation of variant strains, and the CDC is adjusting as needed.

“This guidance will be updated and expanded based on the level of community spread of SARS-CoV-2, the proportion of the population that is fully vaccinated, and the rapidly evolving science on COVID-19 vaccines,” the CDC website said.

More Coronavirus news

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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