THURSDAY, Feb. 11, 2021 (HealthDay News) — Fully vaccinated Americans can now skip quarantines if they are exposed to someone infected with COVID-19, new federal guidelines say.
“Fully vaccinated persons who meet criteria will no longer be required to quarantine following an exposure to someone with COVID-19,” the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in updated guidance posted Wednesday on its website.
There was one caveat: At least two weeks must have passed since the second shot, because it takes that long to build full immunity. But the CDC says it’s not known how long protection lasts, so people who had their last shot three months ago or more should still quarantine if they are exposed or show symptoms, the agency added.
“This recommendation to waive quarantine for people with vaccine-derived immunity aligns with quarantine recommendations for those with natural immunity,” the CDC said. People who have been vaccinated should still watch for symptoms for 14 days after they have been exposed to someone who is infected, the agency added.
That doesn’t mean vaccinated people should stop practicing social distancing, the CDC noted.
Everyone, vaccinated or not, needs to follow all other precautions to prevent the spread of the virus, the agency said.
“At this time, vaccinated persons should continue to follow current guidance to protect themselves and others, including wearing a mask, staying at least 6 feet away from others, avoiding crowds, avoiding poorly ventilated spaces, covering coughs and sneezes, washing hands often, following CDC travel guidance, and following any applicable workplace or school guidance, including guidance related to personal protective equipment use or SARS-CoV-2 testing,” the agency said.
Vaccines prevent symptomatic illness, but they have not yet been shown to prevent asymptomatic illness, the CDC noted. While people without symptoms can spread coronavirus, the CDC said, “symptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission is thought to have a greater role in transmission than purely asymptomatic transmission.”
“These criteria could also be applied when considering work restrictions for fully vaccinated healthcare personnel with higher-risk exposures, as a strategy to alleviate staffing shortages. Of note, exposed healthcare personnel would not be required to quarantine outside of work,” the CDC said.