If it’s been at least eight weeks since you received your first (or only) COVID-19 vaccine, you can consider yourself “fully vaccinated” with your antibodies built up to strength. Until most of America is vaccinated, however, here’s what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says you should keep in mind:
You should continue to mask. Even though COVID-19 cases are down from their peak in January, the coronavirus is still circulating in the U.S., and new and more contagious variants have emerged. Therefore, wearing masks and social distancing are still important in helping slow its spread. Why? Because:
You can STILL contract — and spread — and spread without contracting — a COVID-19 variant. Although the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were about 95 percent effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 after two doses in clinical trials, mutated Covid variants can still infect you and/or render you asymptomatic.
The fully vaccinated can gather indoors with others who are also fully vaccinated — without wearing masks or physical distancing if you choose — because the chance of anyone getting infected would be remote. What’s important, the CDC says, is to keep unvaccinated households from mingling.
You do not have to quarantine or get tested after an exposure to someone with the coronavirus as long as you aren’t experiencing any symptoms. But if you should develop a cough, fever, shortness of breath, diarrhea or other symptoms of COVID-19, get tested ASAP.
Keep your vaccine record card handy as you may need it as proof in order to travel, work in certain industries or attend large events. Several other countries already have a validation system in the works, and a number of private companies in the U.S. are working on creating a digital passport that would include your vaccination status.
You can reschedule your scheduled health maintenance. Go ahead and get that colonoscopy, dental cleaning or elective surgery you’ve been putting off. But not a mammogram: Many women develop swelling in the lymph nodes in their underarm after vaccination — a normal sign that your body is building protection to the coronavirus — but it could result in a false positive result.
Before life can get totally back to normal, “herd immunity” (about 80% of America fully vaccinated) must be reached, which will significantly slow the spread of the virus.
Estimates for herd immunity range from mid-summer 2021 to early winter 2022. But the factors that will affect that timeline include the percentage of Americans willing to get the vaccine; how quickly a vaccine for children is authorized; and how well the vaccines work against more contagious variants of the virus.