Updated: March 10, 2021 9:14:50 am
On Monday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its guidelines for people who have been “fully vaccinated”. It said those who had received their shots should continue taking precautions in public spaces, including maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces.
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What does it mean to be fully vaccinated?
Most of the Covid-19 vaccines that are being administered around the world are in two doses, that are given a few weeks apart. A second booster dose is required to build stronger and longer immune memory.
This is, however, not the case with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is administered as a single dose. This vaccine was recently given approval by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
For the two-dose vaccines, manufactured by Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca, the Indian version of which is Covishield, a person is considered fully vaccinated about two weeks after receiving the second dose.
In the case of the Johnson and Johnson single-dose vaccine too, a person is considered fully vaccinated after two weeks.
What changes for people who are fully vaccinated?
The CDC has said that fully vaccinated people can gather indoors with other fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask.
Those vaccinated can also gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household, and without masks, unless any of the people from either group are at an increased risk of developing severe disease from Covid-19.
Further, if a fully vaccinated person has been around someone who might have Covid-19, they do not need to stay away from others or get tested unless the person shows symptoms. However, if the fully vaccinated person lives in a group setting (like a correctional or detention facility or group home) and is around someone who has Covid-19, the person should stay away for 14 days and get tested, even if they don’t show symptoms.
What don’t we know about vaccines and Covid-19?
It is still unclear if the vaccines are effective against variants of the virus. Preliminary data suggests that while some vaccines work against some of the variants, they may not be effective against all variants.
It is also not known whether vaccines reduce the risk of the virus being transmitted. Which is to say that while a fully vaccinated person is protected from infection themselves, they could still carry the virus in their nose and throat, and spread it to others who may not have vaccine-induced immunity or natural immunity from the disease.
Therefore, most advisories still suggest that vaccinated people wear masks in public spaces and maintain social distance.
It also remains unclear how long a vaccinated person has immunity from the disease. Therefore, it is yet to be clarified whether people will have to be vaccinated every year or every few years.
Also, while elderly people along with frontline workers are being prioritised for vaccines, it is yet to be known whether children will get vaccinated soon. Pfizer, for instance, has cleared its anti-Covid-19 vaccine for use on those aged 16 and above, but for those below this age threshold, getting vaccinated may still be far away.
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