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Fully vaccinated against COVID-19? Here's what you can do

A young man is opening the door to a restaurant. The door has a sign on it that says "open."

We've all heard the big news from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): In most situations, fully vaccinated people can safely unmask outside or inside, and they no longer need to maintain social distancing.

Here's a look at what that does and does not mean.

1. It applies only if you're fully vaccinated. You're considered fully vaccinated two weeks after your second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or two weeks after a Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine. This means people who are partially vaccinated and those who haven't gotten a shot yet (including children) should keep wearing masks and practicing social distancing.

2. You can resume many favorite activities. You can take part in many indoor or outdoor activities without wearing a mask. And you don't need to stay 6 feet apart. These changes apply to things like going to restaurants, shopping centers, worship services, sporting events or concerts.

CDC says outdoor and indoor activities pose a low risk to fully vaccinated people. And fully vaccinated people are also less likely to spread the virus.

3. You still need to follow local rules. CDC's guideline is a recommendation—not a national rule. Why does that matter? It means you'll still need to wear a mask and practice social distancing if state, county or city rules require you to do so.

You might also need to wear a mask:

  • In some businesses. Some stores and other private businesses have lifted their mandates. But others have not. Look for signs outside the building. Ask if you're not sure.
  • At work. Be sure to follow rules at your workplace for masking and social distancing.

4. You'll still need to mask up on public transportation. Masks are still required on buses, trains and airplanes. You'll also need to wear them in airports and train and bus stations.

5. You may want to keep your mask on if your immune system is weak. You can have a weak immune system due to an illness or a medicine you take. If you have a weakened immune system, CDC says you should talk to your doctor about what precautions to take. The reason? We're still learning how well vaccines work if your immune system is weak. So you may not be fully protected from COVID-19 even if you are fully vaccinated.

6. You don't need to be tested if you've been around someone with COVID-19. But you should get tested if you have symptoms.

You should also get tested if you've been exposed to the virus and you live or work in a correctional facility or a homeless shelter.

7. Being vaccinated also can make travel safer, especially within the U.S. CDC updated its travel advice for vaccinated people. It includes:

  • If you travel in the U.S., you do not need to get tested before or after your trip.
  • You do not need to get tested before you leave the U.S. unless your destination requires it.
  • You still need to show a negative test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before you board a plane back to the U.S. And you should get tested three to five days after you get home.
  • You don't need to quarantine after you travel.

Ready to roll up your sleeve?

Being fully vaccinated can make life feel a little more normal. Anyone who wants a COVID-19 shot can get one for free. Kids as young as 12 are now eligible.

So if you haven't been vaccinated yet and would like to be, contact your local health department or pharmacy. Ask them how you can get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Get more updates on the pandemic

Visit our Coronavirus health topic center.

Reviewed 7/7/2021

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