Staying Safe After Getting Your COVID-19 Vaccine

A child wearing a mask and receiving a vaccine from a doctor.

So, you’ve finally gotten your COVID-19 vaccine—congratulations! After over a year of uncertainty, we’re finally seeing some progress in building herd immunity against the coronavirus. However, even after your final shot—or your only shot if you’ve received the Johnson and Johnson vaccine—there are still precautions you need to take to ensure you’re keeping others safe.

Wait Two Weeks

“Fully vaccinated”—what does that actually mean? Your body needs time to develop immunity against the virus, so even after you receive that final shot, you’re not considered fully vaccinated until about two weeks later. In that two-week window, it’s important to continue taking precautions as normal—masking, avoiding people outside your household, social distancing, etc.—as you can still get sick.

Why Is It Still Important to Take Precautions After Full Vaccination?

The vaccine doesn’t build complete immunity to the coronavirus. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines create around 95% immunity, while the Johnson and Johnson single-dose creates 75% immunity, meaning there is a chance—though small—that you can get COVID-19 after being fully vaccinated. However, Joseph J. Eron, UNC Health Chief of Infectious Diseases explains, “…Your chances of becoming seriously ill are substantially lowered because you got the vaccine.” On the off chance you do get sick, you’ll likely have less severe symptoms.

Additionally, research is still being done on how much the COVID-19 vaccines reduce transmission. It’s possible, even if you’re vaccinated, you could still infect those around you. Until we know more about how the vaccines affect the spread of coronavirus, it’s important to continue taking precautions to keep yourself and others safe.

What You Can Do and What You Should Continue to Do After Vaccination

After you’re fully vaccinated, you can start returning to some of the activities you engaged in before the pandemic. Without wearing a mask or social distancing, you can meet indoors with other fully vaccinated individuals. As long as they’re not at risk for serious complications from COVID-19, you can also meet indoors with unvaccinated people without masks or social distancing. If necessary, you may be able to travel without testing or quarantining before or after the trip, but you should still travel with caution and respect for those around you.

As for the precautions you should continue to take, keep wearing a mask, avoiding crowds, and social distancing in public, as well as in gatherings with unvaccinated people from more than one household and those with a high risk of serious illness from COVID-19. As usual, if you’re exposed to COVID-19, get tested and stay home until you get the results.

For more information on keeping yourself, your loved ones, and your communities safe, be sure to check out the CDC guidelines and the Specialized Health and Safety blog.

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