If it has been at least two weeks since you received your last dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, congratulations! You are now considered “fully vaccinated.” You are armed with our best weapon against a virus that has killed more than 3.3 million people worldwide and upended our lives in unimaginable ways.
That is truly something worth celebrating.
But before you throw caution to the wind (or throw a party), it’s important to remember that the coronavirus is still spreading and the majority of Americans have yet to be vaccinated — so some precautions continue to be necessary to protect yourself and the people around you.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published specific guidance about what the fully vaccinated can do and cannot do, and AARP has asked experts to answer other common questions about life after vaccination. Here are 10 things you should know now that you’ve been jabbed.
1. You still need a mask — but only in some situations
People who are fully vaccinated no longer need to wear a mask in most indoor and outdoor settings, large or small, the CDC announced on May 13.
“We have all longed for this moment, when we can get back to some sense of normalcy,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a news briefing, pointing to the effectiveness of the vaccines against the virus and the variants and the steady decline in COVID-19 cases in the U.S.
Masks will still be required on planes, buses, trains and other forms of public transportation, as well as in transportation hubs like airports and train stations. Walensky also noted that health care facilities “will continue to follow their specific infection-control recommendations” — plus businesses and workplaces can set their own guidance.
“If things get worse, there is always a chance we may need to make a change to these recommendations, but we know that the more people are vaccinated, the less cases we will have, and the less chance of a new spike or additional variants emerging,” Walensky said.
Immunocompromised individuals should talk to their health care provider before ditching their masks. “They may need to keep taking all precautions to prevent COVID-19,” the CDC says.
2. You could still catch COVID-19
Although all three vaccines authorized for emergency use in the U.S. have proved to be highly effective against severe disease and death from COVID-19, there’s still a chance you could get infected with the virus — also known as a breakthrough case.
No vaccine prevents illness 100 percent of the time, according to the CDC. However, real-world studies show the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are 94 percent effective against hospitalization from COVID-19 among fully vaccinated adults. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was 66.1 percent effective in multi-country clinical trials and 72 percent effective in U.S. trials.
“The whole point of a vaccine is that it prevents you from dying or ending up in the hospital,” says Purvi Parikh, M.D., an allergist and immunologist at NYU Langone Health and an investigator in COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials. “But you may still get sick.”