Fully Vaccinated Against Covid
- By Amy C. Sherman, MD, Contributor
Editors note: In the US, advice on mask-wearing and physical distancing continues to evolve. Fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks or stay six feet away from others outdoors and in many but not all indoor settings, according to the CDC. Whether youre vaccinated or not, continue following federal, state, tribal, and local laws, and workplace or business requirements. For details, see this CDC web page.
Congrats on getting your COVID-19 vaccine! You qualify as fully vaccinated two weeks after your second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, or two weeks after your single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .
Maybe you’re wondering what you can safely do now that you’re fully vaccinated. As an infectious disease specialist, I’ve provided answers to some common questions. Please keep in mind that information about COVID-19 and vaccines is evolving, and recommendations may change as we learn more.
Can I gather with people outside my household who also are fully vaccinated?
Yes, if you and your friends or family are fully vaccinated, gathering in small groups without masks is considered low-risk. Although it’s possible that people who are fully vaccinated could still spread the virus, the vaccines are excellent at protecting you from severe illness, hospitalization, and death due to COVID-19.
- Indoor visits without masks are okay and likely low-risk.
There Isnt One Approved Way To Show Proof Of Your Vaccination Card
The US doesnt have a single online system or app you can use to show proof of vaccination on your phone. Instead, what qualifies as proof varies by city, county and even business. Some places may accept a picture of your vaccination card; others may require you to use an app thats authorized at state level.;
Its a confusing mess, to put it mildly. I strongly urge you to take a few minutes to research what your city, county or state will accept as proof, as it can vary.;
For example, concert producer AEG Presents will accept a physical copy of a COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card, a digital copy of such card or such other proof as is permitted locally.
Along with school mandates, many colleges are are also requiring students and employees to be vaccinated. Seattle University, for example, requires students to be vaccinated to attend in-person classes via an online form that uploads photos of the front and back of the vaccination card.
When in doubt, look for information on the businesss website, or call the local health department and ask for clarification. This is bound to save you time, headaches and being turned away at the door.
What Does A Mild Case Of Covid Feel Like
In my case, it was worse than I expected, but in the parlance of public health, it was “mild,” meaning I didn’t end up in the hospital or require oxygen.
This mild category is essentially a catchall, said;Dr. Robert Wachter, who chairs the Department of Medicine at the University of California-San Francisco. “Mild” can range from “a day of feeling crummy to being completely laid up in bed for a week, all of your bones hurt and your brain isn’t working well.”
There’s not great data on the details of these mild breakthrough infections, but so far it appears that “you do way better than those who are not vaccinated,” said;Dr. Sarang Yoon, an occupational medicine specialist at the University of Utah who was part of a nationwide study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on breakthrough infections.
Yoon’s study, published in June with data collected before the delta surge, found that the presence of fever was cut in half, and the days spent in bed reduced by 60% among people with breakthrough infections, compared with unvaccinated people who got sick.
If you’re vaccinated, the;risk of being hospitalized is one-tenth;that of the unvaccinated, according to the latest data from the CDC. Those who get severely and critically ill with a breakthrough case tend to be older in one study done before delta,;the median age was 80.5; with underlying medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease.
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Can You Still Spread Covid
Most infectious disease experts believe that a highly effective vaccine will help lower the risk that you can spread COVID-19 after youre immunized, but theyre still trying to determine what the impact looks like on case numbers. Concrete data hasnt been released yet on whether the vaccines offer whats known as sterilizing immunity, which means that those who are vaccinated cant contract or pass on the virus at all.
We expect that the level of risk of transmissibility is greatly diminished, but not eliminated, says Stanley H. Weiss, M.D., an epidemiologist and professor at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and the Department of Biostatistics & Epidemiology at the Rutgers School of Public Health.
The clinical trials that looked at the vaccines that are authorized for use by the FDA were based on the prevention of symptomatic diseasethey werent looking at asymptomatic disease, says infectious disease expert Amesh A. Adalja, M.D., senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. They werent designed to determine whether asymptomatic transmission would occur .
Statistics vary, but research has shown that up to 20% of people who have COVID-19 show no symptoms. Early data show the vaccines do help keep people with no symptoms from spreading COVID-19, but we are learning more as more people get vaccinated, the CDC states on its site.
Have An Iphone Or An Android Phone Heres An Easy Way To Save Your Card
If you have an iPhone, with an update coming soon for iOS 15 youll be able to add your vaccine card to your Apple Wallet to present to whenever you need to show youre fully vaccinated.
Over on Android, you can add your vaccine card to the Google Pay app. I need to remind myself each time where my card is in Google Pay, so I added a shortcut icon to my home screen to quickly find it.
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Why Do Some People Still Get Covid After Being Vaccinated
Vaccines arent magic barriers. They dont kill the virus or pathogen they target.
Rather, vaccines stimulate a persons immune system to create antibodies. These antibodies are specific against the virus or pathogen for the vaccine and allows the body to fight infection before it takes hold and causes severe disease.
However, some people wont have a strong enough immune response to the vaccine and may still be susceptible to developing COVID-19 if exposed to the virus.
How a person responds to a vaccine is impacted by a number of host factors, including our age, gender, medications, diet, exercise, health and stress levels.
Its not easy to tell who hasnt developed a strong enough immune response to the vaccine. Measuring a persons immune response to a vaccine is not simple and requires detailed laboratory tests.
And while side effects from the vaccine indicate youre having a response, the absence of symptoms doesnt mean youre having a weak response.
It also takes time for the immune system to respond to vaccines and produce antibodies. For most two-shot vaccines, antibody levels rise and then dip after the first dose. These antibodies are then boosted after the second.
But youre not optimally covered until your antibody levels rise after the second dose.
What Does Covid Look Like After Being Vaccinated
The PCR tests we use to detect SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, are very sensitive and can detect a positive case even if you have low levels of the virus in your system. This means a person can test positive for SARS-CoV-2 but still not have symptoms of COVID-19.
There is always a chance a vaccinated person could pass the virus onto a non-vaccinated person without having symptoms themselves.
But vaccinated people who develop COVID-19 will likely have a lower viral load than unvaccinated people, meaning theyre less likely to spread the virus.
One study estimated those who were vaccinated with either Pfizer or AstraZeneca were 50% less likely to pass it on to an unvaccinated household contact than someone who wasnt vaccinated. This transmission will likely reduce again if both household members are vaccinated.
But if youre not vaccinated and contract COVID-19, youre much more likely to spread the virus.
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Health’never Seen Anything Like It’: Delta Is Making A Growing Number Of Kids Very Sick
Nobody wants to keep staying home. Nobody wants to keep wearing masks. But we do, because thats the sensible and reasonable thing to do at this point, Cabral, who lives in Boston, said.
In the rare event that a vaccinated parent does get a breakthrough infection, Creech said, they should isolate in a separate part of the house away from their unvaccinated children, if thats practical. Otherwise, he recommended wearing a mask and hand-washing when interacting with their child.
But he stressed that healthy children with no underlying conditions will likely have more mild cases of Covid-19 than adults typically do, so parents should not be overly concerned.
The best way to protect kids, Creech added, is to make sure everyone around them who can get vaccinated does.
For Eichelberger, the New York mom, being vaccinated remains a huge comfort. But having to still worry about unwittingly catching or transmitting Covid-19 especially to her kids has weighed on her.
If I had known this was going to happen, I would have spent my pregnancies reading about epidemiology instead of parenting styles, she joked.
Elizabeth Chuck is a reporter for NBC News who focuses on health and mental health, particularly issues that affect women and children.
How Effective Are The Vaccines
Only the Pfizer-BioNTech has been given emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration at this time, though emergency authorization is expected soon for the Moderna vaccine. According to the FDAs authorization letter, it is 95 percent effective seven days after the second dose. According to Modernas data, it is 94.1 percent effective.;
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Will My Vaccine Side Effects Be Worse If I’ve Had Covid
Side effects from the second shot are sometimes more intense than the first. However, people who have already had COVID-19 might experience more significant side effects even after their first dose of the vaccine.
In a way, this is a good sign that your body is recognizing the fragment of the virus and mounting an immune response to fight it, Juthani says. The immunity developed from the vaccine is much stronger than immunity from natural infection, so it is still worth getting vaccinated.
A Cdc Document Gives New Details On Just How Dangerous The Delta Variant Really Is
The CDC said the finding that fully vaccinated people could spread the virus was behind its move to change its mask guidance.
“High viral loads suggest an increased risk of transmission and raised concern that, unlike with other variants, vaccinated people infected with Delta can transmit the virus,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC’s director, said in a statement Friday.
“This finding is concerning and was a pivotal discovery leading to CDC’s updated mask recommendation. The masking recommendation was updated to ensure the vaccinated public would not unknowingly transmit virus to others, including their unvaccinated or immunocompromised loved ones,” Walensky said.
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First A Refresher On Why We Need A Covid
Herd immunity, a.k.a. community immunity, means a significant portion of a population is immune to an infectious disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . This ultimately makes the spread of the infectious disease from person to person unlikely.
Herd immunity can be achieved when enough people contract an illness and build natural immunity to it or through vaccination. In the case of COVID-19, natural immunity is out of the question, as the virus can be deadly or cause long-lasting side effects in those who survive. So far, more than 530,000 Americans have lost their lives to COVID-19.
Thats why vaccination is crucial: Its the safest way to achieve herd immunity, says Richard Watkins, M.D., an infectious disease physician and a professor of internal medicine at the Northeast Ohio Medical University. Herd immunity also helps protect vulnerable people who cant get vaccinated. When a large portion of people can get the vaccine choose not to do so, those who cannot receive one will remain at riskand the virus will continue to circulate.
Can A Vaccinated Person Spread Coronavirus
Immunologists expect vaccines that protect against viral illnesses to also reduce transmission of the virus after vaccination. But its actually tricky to figure out for sure if vaccinated people are not spreading the germ.
COVID-19 poses a particular challenge because people with asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic infections can spread the disease and insufficient contact tracing and testing mean those without symptoms are rarely detected. Some scientists estimate that the number of asymptomatic COVID-19 infections in the overall population could be 3 to 20 times higher than the number of confirmed cases. Research suggests that undocumented cases of COVID-19 in people who either were asymptomatic or experienced very mild disease could be responsible for up to 86% of all infections, though other studies contradict the high estimates.
In one study, the CDC tested volunteer health care personnel and other front-line workers at eight U.S. locations for SARS-CoV-2 infections weekly for three months, regardless of symptoms or vaccination status. The researchers found that fully immunized participants were 25 times less likely to test positive for COVID-19 than were those who were unvaccinated. Findings like this imply that if vaccinated people are so well protected from getting infected at all, they are also unlikely to spread the virus. But without contact tracing to track transmission in a larger population, its impossible to know if the assumption is true.
What Are The Risks And What The Science Says
Wear your mask. Or, don’t wear your mask if you are vaccinated, as long as you are outside. But, keep masking and social distancing inside even if you are vaccinated. It’s confusing to many.
Vaccines have been proven to prevent serious infection, and studies that show a reduction in transmission are building, but they aren’t foolproof. A recent study by Public Health England found that a single dose of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca vaccine reduced household transmission by up to half. Those both require two doses to be considered “fully vaccinated.” The study comes as we hear more about breakthrough COVID cases.
In this episode, Colleen Kelley, MD, an associate professor of infectious diseases at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta and a principal investigator for the Moderna and Novavax phase III clinical trials at the Ponce de Leon Clinical Research Site, joins us to explain the risk of transmission after vaccination.
Following is a transcript:
Serena Marshall: Dr. Kelley, thanks for joining us here at Track the Vax. I want to ask you, just right off the bat here, what can I do once I’ve been vaccinated? Is it safe to, you know, give hugs, shake hands, work inside an office space? What’s the risk of transmissibility after COVID vaccination?
What Are The Covid
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , there are several side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines that are relatively common. If you experience these side effects they are usually not serious and go away on their own in a short time:
- Fever and chills
- Pain, redness, or swelling on the arm
Severe reactions to the COVID vaccine usually occur within 15 minutes of getting the shot. That’s why most vaccination sites ask you to stick around for 15 minutes to a half-hour after you get your dose to monitor you.
If youve had a history of anaphylaxis, you should be observed for 30 minutes to make sure that you dont develop another such episode, Manisha Juthani, MD, infectious diseases specialist at Yale Medicine and associate professor at the Yale School of Medicine, tells Verywell. For symptoms that develop after the initial vaccination period, if you have symptoms that last more than 72 hours after your vaccine, you should call your doctor. If you develop a rash at the site of the vaccination, you could have a local allergic reaction.
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What Are The Chances Of Being Reinfected With Covid
If youve had COVID-19, whats the likelihood that you could contract the virus a second time if you dont get vaccinated against it?;
Were not seeing very many secondary infections, says Dr. Englund. But she says its also relatively early on in the pandemic. Scientists are still learning about coronavirus, and if youve had the virus and arent vaccinated, its unclear how long it will take before you can be reinfected with COVID-19.;
Its much better to get yourself vaccinated. Then you dont have to worry moving forward until we learn more about whether we need booster shots or not, Dr. Englund clarifies.