Ever since the U.S. declaration of a public health emergency on March 13, 2020, Americans have wondered what life would look like if and when a vaccine was developed.  In December, the first vaccine was administered in the U.S.  On March 8, 2021, the positive momentum accelerated when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) offered some encouraging answers in guidelines entitled When You’ve Been Fully Vaccinated, How to Protect Yourself and Others.

The Guidelines offer insight for individuals that have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19, stating that “people who have been fully vaccinated can start to do some things that they had stopped doing because of the pandemic.”  In order to be considered “fully vaccinated”, the CDC defines this as:

  • Two weeks after the second dose of a 2-dose series (Moderna/Pfizer vaccines); or
  • Two weeks after a single-dose vaccine (Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine).

The guidelines state that “[i]f it has been less than 2 weeks since your shot, or if you still need to get your second dose, you are NOT fully protected.”  The CDC guidelines now permit fully vaccinated individuals to:

  • Gather indoors with other fully vaccinated individuals without a mask;
  • Gather indoors with unvaccinated individuals from one other household without masks, unless the individuals from the other household have an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19; and
  • Do not need to stay away from others or be tested after a COVID-19 exposure, unless you live in a group setting.

Importantly, the guidelines also acknowledge the questions that remain.  For instance, the guidance states that “we’re still learning” the effectiveness of vaccines against COVID-19 variants; how much the vaccines prevent individuals from spreading COVID-19; and how long the vaccines protect individuals.

Even after an individual is fully vaccinated, the CDC provides that they should continue to wear a mask, stay six feet from others, and avoid crowds and poorly ventilated spaces.  Additionally, the CDC still recommends delaying domestic and international travel.

The CDC will continue to update their recommendations. Norton Rose Fulbright lawyers will continue to provide relevant updates on the COVID-19 PHE on the Health Law Pulse.