You're vaccinated, now what?

Staff Reports

Covid-19 vaccination rates are on the rise across Oklahoma and the nation, leaving many curious whether they can relax pandemic precautions.

With new guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, experts at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation answer questions about post-vaccination life.

1. What is “full vaccination,” and how long does it take?

Being fully vaccinated means your body has formed a maximal immune response to a vaccine. Whether you received a two-dose Covid-19 vaccine (Moderna or Pfizer) or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson jab, the timetable after the final — or only — shot is the same: two weeks.

“Trial data shows this is the optimal amount of time for your body to build a full immune response and the vaccine to reach peak performance,” said OMRF immunologist Eliza Chakravarty, M.D. “Vaccines are not like pain medication; they a little while to kick in. Your immune system has a lot of work to do.”

2. Can I be indoors with unmasked people?

Small groups of fully vaccinated people can gather indoors, unmasked with other fully vaccinated people. And, the CDC says, fully vaccinated people can gather unmasked, indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household, as long as none of those people are at high risk for severe illness from Covid-19.

“It’s a much lower risk,” said OMRF physician-scientist Hal Scofield, M.D. “The Covid-19 vaccines are among the most effective ever produced. If you’re tired of masks, get a vaccine as soon as you can.”

3. Can I see my unvaccinated family, like children who can’t be vaccinated yet?

“Grandparents are particularly concerned with this question,” said Scofield. “The answer is yes, as long as you keep it to one household, and no one is at high risk for severe Covid-19.”

For family gatherings of more than one household at a time, Scofield says, it is best to keep the festivities outside, practice distancing and wear masks.

4. Do I still need to wear a mask in public?

“Yes, but probably not for much longer,” said Chakravarty, explaining that it is still unknown if fully vaccinated individuals can spread the virus to unvaccinated people.

“With more contagious variants circulating, we all need to do our part to stop another surge. My mask stays on until Dr. Fauci says it’s safe to take it off,” Chakravarty added.

5. Do I still need to quarantine if I am exposed to someone with Covid-19?

“No. Because the vaccines appear to do such a good job at protecting people, fully vaccinated people don’t need to quarantine or get a test only because they’ve been exposed,” said Scofield.

However, you should keep an eye on how you’re feeling and get a test if any Covid-like symptoms develop.

“These guidelines show we’re in the home stretch. They will continue to change as we learn more,” said Scofield. “Let’s just see it through to the end.”

OMRF is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institute dedicated to understanding and developing more effective treatments for human diseases. Its scientists focus on such critical research areas as cancer, diseases of aging, lupus and cardiovascular disease.