The COVID-19 vaccines provide many important benefits like increased protection against the virus and getting our country back to a more normal way of life. Once you get vaccinated, what does this mean for mask-wearing, travel, social gatherings, herd immunity, and more? Drs. Maryrose Laguio-Vila and Robert Mayo provide their insight.
The vaccines approved by the United States FDA help to prevent you from getting sick from COVID-19 and are especially effective in preventing severe illness or death.
"If you've been vaccinated, you're much less likely to get sick or have complications," explained Dr. Maryrose Laguio-Vila, infectious disease specialist at Rochester Regional Health. "Early data show that the vaccines may also help to keep people from spreading COVID-19, but we are learning more as more people get vaccinated. You should still watch out for symptoms of COVID-19, especially if you've been around someone who is sick. If you do have symptoms, you should get tested and stay home, even if you've been vaccinated."
Mask-wearing, hand hygiene, avoiding gatherings, and physical distancing are still important to do in public, if you're gathering with a group from more than one household or if you're visiting someone who is high-risk, even for those who have received two doses of the vaccine. There are new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control for what fully vaccinated people can do indoors with small groups.
According to new guidance from the CDC, individuals who are fully vaccinated can now:
"The new guidance from the CDC outlines that fully vaccinated individuals can now get together with other fully vaccinated individuals or unvaccinated members of one household, indoors and without a mask," said Dr. Robert Mayo, Chief Medical Officer of Rochester Regional Health. "For now, they still recommend taking precautions like mask-wearing and staying 6 feet apart if you're getting together with unvaccinated people from more than one household, with those who are at high-risk for COVID-19 disease or if you're in public."
Traveling is one of the top priorities for many people once they’re vaccinated, but the Centers for Disease Control currently recommend postponing both domestic and international travel and staying home to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.
“Any amount of time in an enclosed area with people you don’t know if they’ve been vaccinated or not is still a risky situation, and that certainly includes an airport or airplane,” explained Dr. Robert Mayo, Chief Medical Officer of Rochester Regional Health. “Travel still presents a chance that you can spread the virus to your family, friends and community.”
The vaccine only helps protect against COVID-19 for the person who gets vaccinated by helping the body build immunity. People within your household who are not vaccinated have not reached maximum protection.
“Anyone in your household who has symptoms of COVID-19 should seek testing,” explained Dr. Laguio-Vila. “If they are positive, they should self-isolate in their residence as recommended by the CDC. If they are negative, that could mean that are negative only at the time of testing. So, continued mask-wearing and physical distancing are still advised.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people who are fully vaccinated will no longer be required to quarantine following an exposure to someone with COVID-19 if they are:
If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should still get tested and stay home and away from others, even if you've been vaccinated.
Herd immunity means that when enough people are immune to a virus, the virus can no longer spread.
“Herd immunity is an effective way to prevent the spread of the virus, but it can only be safely reached when a majority of a population gets vaccinated,” explained Dr. Laguio-Vila. “The vaccine is a great step in the right direction to returning to a normal way of life.”
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