Four Qs: How Big Is My Bubble after Vaccination?

Illustration of a man's face with diverse people reflected in the glasses lenses.

When is someone fully vaccinated?

It takes time for your immune system to build maximum protection after a vaccination. People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second shot of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, or two weeks after the single-dose Johnson and Johnson/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine.

Can fully vaccinated people visit with other fully vaccinated people without masking?

Yes, as long as the recently issued Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance is followed. If you are fully vaccinated, you can gather with small groups of other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks.

Can fully vaccinated people visit with people who aren’t vaccinated without masking?

The CDC says fully vaccinated people can visit with unvaccinated people from a single household without wearing masks or distancing, as long as those people are at low risk for severe COVID-19 disease. The good news for grandparents is that most of their grandkids are at low risk for severe disease. That means if they are fully vaccinated, they can likely see their unvaccinated grandchildren without wearing a mask.

Even after vaccination, however, I would still worry about being with someone who is not vaccinated and is at very high risk for COVID complications, because we still need to learn more about whether people can spread COVID after vaccination without having symptoms.

Why do fully vaccinated people need to continue to mask and distance in public?

While these vaccines are working incredibly well, they are not 100% effective. They are almost completely effective at preventing severe illness, including hospitalization and death. But since even mild COVID can keep you out of work and give you long-lasting symptoms, you still want to avoid it. Also, the last thing you want to do once you are vaccinated is to infect someone who isn’t—we don’t know yet whether people who are vaccinated can spread COVID without being sick themselves. And finally, when you’re out in public, no one knows who is vaccinated and who is not. The majority of the United States is still unvaccinated, and if unvaccinated people see others not taking precautions, they may get a false sense of security. So it’s a big public health service to still wear a mask.

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