Updated April 6, 2021
Congratulations on being vaccinated! The CDC (and NH DHHS) considers you “fully vaccinated” once you are 14 days past your last (or only) shot. Here are some answers to questions frequently asked by those who have been fully vaccinated:
Now that I am fully vaccinated, do I still need to wear a mask and physically distance?
According to CDC guidance issued March 8, 2021, that depends on what you will be doing.
Fully vaccinated people can:
- Eliminate the need to quarantine and test if they remain asymptomatic following a known exposure to COVID-19.
- Visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors – in small groups -- without wearing masks or physical distancing. The risk of this type of gathering is small, but still possible, so consider carefully who and for how long you will visit.
- Visit with unvaccinated people from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 disease indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing. But take precautions based on the vulnerabilities of the unvaccinated people in the household – even if they are not present during the visit.
- If the unvaccinated people are from a single household with no one at risk of severe COVID-19, no precautions are needed. For example, fully vaccinated grandparents can visit indoors with their unvaccinated healthy daughter and her healthy children without wearing masks or physical distancing, provided none of the unvaccinated family members are at risk of severe COVID-19.
- If any of the unvaccinated people or their household members are at increased risk of severe COVID-19, everyone should take precautions including wearing a well-fitted mask and staying at least 6 feet away from others. For example, if a fully vaccinated individual visits with an unvaccinated friend who is seventy years old and therefore more at risk of severe disease, the visit should take place outdoors, wearing well-fitted masks, and maintaining physical distance (at least 6 feet).
- Take precautions if visiting unvaccinated people from multiple households. As there is a higher risk of COVID-19 transmission among them, all people involved should take precautions including wearing a well-fitted mask and staying at least 6 feet away from others. For example, if fully vaccinated grandparents are visiting with their unvaccinated daughter and her children and the daughter’s unvaccinated neighbors come over, the mixing of two unvaccinated households poses a higher risk (even if the vaccinated grandparents were not present). The visit should take place outdoors, wearing well-fitted masks, and maintaining physical distance (at least 6 feet).
This NHDHHS graphic may help:
When in doubt -- maintain masking and physical distancing.
Everyone, regardless of vaccination status, should adhere to current guidance:
- Avoid medium- or large-sized in-person gatherings
- Follow local guidance restricting the size of gatherings.
- In public places, take precautions to reduce spread, including wearing a well-fitted mask, maintaining physical distance and washing hands frequently.
In addition, fully-vaccinated people should continue to:
- Get tested if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms
- Follow guidance issued by individual employers
- Follow CDC and health department travel requirements and recommendations
While the vaccines are designed to keep a vaccinated person from developing a case of COVID-19 that requires hospitalization or intensive care, they do not necessarily prevent all infection. It is not yet known and further research is being conducted to determine whether the vaccine prevents the spread of the virus. As NH DHHS emphasizes, “It remains possible that people who are fully vaccinated or previously infected could still acquire asymptomatic COVID-19 infection, or attenuated (milder) COVID-19. Therefore, even people who are fully vaccinated or previously infected need to continue to practice physical distancing, avoid social groups and gatherings, and wear face masks at all times when in public places and facilities. Healthcare providers should continue to follow all recommended infection control and personal protective equipment (PPE) guidance.”
The Portsmouth Mask Ordinance is in effect through June 30, 2021 and the NH statewide Mask Mandate is in effect through March 26, 2021.
How effective will my vaccination be against COVID-19 variants?
There is some evidence to suggest that antibodies generated through vaccination with currently authorized vaccines will recognize these variants. This is being further investigated and more studies are underway. Studies of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines (whose early trials were largely completed before the variants emerged) include small modifications intended to enhance their effectiveness against new variants. The Johnson & Johnson trial that occurred later in the pandemic and was tested in South Africa where one of the variants emerged, still demonstrated high effectiveness in preventing hospitalization and death, although it was slightly less effective in preventing infection. The continued transmission of the variants, especially the B.1.1.7 (UK) variant, makes taking continued precautions like masking prudent, especially if you will be indoors and unable to properly distance. Outdoors is safer than indoors for reducing your risk of infection. (Source: Journal of Infectious Diseases, Outdoor Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and Other Respiratory Viruses: A Systematic Review)
What should I do if I’m exposed to someone who tests positive for COVID-19?
Once fully vaccinated, you do not need to quarantine if you are exposed to someone with COVID-19, according to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
However, you should monitor yourself for COVID-19 symptoms for 14 days after any exposure and if you become symptomatic, contact your health care provider and schedule a COVID-19 test.
Once I’m fully vaccinated can I hug someone who is not vaccinated?
It should be relatively safe for you to hug an unvaccinated person who is at low risk for COVID-19. But consider wearing a mask and be sure to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before getting close.
Can I care for someone with COVID-19?
While getting the COVID-19 vaccine may help keep caregivers from getting seriously ill, it might still be possible to be infected when exposed to the virus. If you are caring for someone with COVID-19 at home, you should do what you can to protect yourself and others to minimize transmission of the disease: limit contact, eat in separate areas, avoid sharing personal items, wear a mask and gloves, wash hands frequently and self-monitor for any symptoms of infection.
How about indoor dining?
Outdoor dining in an open environment with lots of ventilation is safer than dining indoors. Since COVID-19 is spread via airborne particles, being indoors without a mask and near others who are unmasked while eating presents an opportunity for the virus to spread.
If you choose to dine indoors be sure to wear a mask when entering and leaving the restaurant, when leaving your table for any reason, and when you are not actively eating or drinking. This is especially important if you are in a high-risk category for illness from COVID-19.
Outdoor dining in a semi-enclosed environment (such as a dome or igloo with open doors and windows) – even with only your household members -- is not as safe as a fully-open outdoor setting. Most restaurant protocols limit gatherings in semi-enclosed settings to immediate household.
What about travel?
- Fully vaccinated people should continue to take COVID-19 precautions while traveling internationally.
- Masks are required on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations.
- Fully vaccinated people must still have a negative COVID-19 test result before they board a flight to the United States and get a COVID-19 test 3 to 5 days after returning from international travel.
However, some other requirements have been modified for fully vaccinated travelers, for example:
- Fully vaccinated travelers do not need to self-quarantine in the United States following international travel
- Fully vaccinated people do not need to self-quarantine after returning to the United States, unless required by a state or local jurisdiction.
Always check for additional requirements that may apply at your destination.
State, local, and territorial governments may have travel restrictions in place, including testing requirements, stay-at-home orders, and quarantine requirements upon arrival. For up-to-date information and travel guidance, check the state or territorial and local health department where you are, along your route, and where you are going. Prepare to be flexible during your trip as restrictions and policies may change during your travel. Follow all state, local, and territorial travel restrictions.
The risk of infection, even following vaccination, is higher in public spaces. Although planes have better air filtration, the risk is high in enclosed public transportation modes such as buses, trains, subways, rideshares as these transportation modes are poorly ventilated. Continue to wear a mask, distance and wash your hands frequently.
What about the gym?
Two studies done over the summer identify the high risk of going to a gym and exercising without a mask, in proximity to others, in poorly ventilated spaces. Given the high rate of heavy exhalation it is recommended that if you choose to return to the gym after full vaccination that you wear a well fitted mask and socially distance. Try to find a workout spot near an open door or window and limit your time.
How about a hair salon or barber?
NH has eased restrictions on barbers and salons. Once you are fully vaccinated it is much safer to head into a salon or barbershop. The staff – and other patrons -- should be wearing masks. If you can wear a mask even part of the time, you will reduce your risk of becoming infected.
How about visiting the dentist?
It is riskier for the dentist than it is for you. Dentists were in the first group in NH to receive vaccinations; check to see if the staff in the dental office is vaccinated. Even before the pandemic most dentists and dental staff wore masks, face shields and gloves, and practiced frequent handwashing.
Once I have received the full vaccine will I need a booster shot? Will I have to be vaccinated every year, like with the flu shot?
At this time, it is not known how long immunity will last not only from the vaccines, but also for those who developed COVID-19 and natural immunity from having the disease. As the vaccine trials progress and more research data is collected, there will be better guidance on the need for additional shots.