Guidelines for People Fully Vaccinated Against COVID-19

Published on: May 13, 2021fb-roundtwitter-roundemail-round
Woman on train wearing maskGetty Images

The US has been ramping up vaccination efforts over the past couple of months. The country is currently vaccinating around 2 million people a day — a decline from mid-April's 3 million daily high – and now some 117 million Americans are fully vaccinated. But the program still has a long way to go.

Officials appear hopeful that the vaccination campaign is working, as new COVID-19 cases have started to decline. But as restrictions ease, it's important to keep in mind that variants are continuing to spread around the world. Meaning: whether you’re fully vaccinated or still waiting to get a shot, make sure you’re taking steps to keep yourself and others safe.

Here are the guidelines for fully vaccinated people… 

Your friends might be posting pictures of their vaccine cards on Instagram (more on that below). But that doesn’t mean they’re completely protected from COVID-19 just yet. The CDC says you're fully vaccinated… 

  • 2 weeks after your second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or

  • 2 weeks after your single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine 

If you’ve only gotten one Pfizer or Moderna shot, or it’s been less than two weeks since getting the J&J shot, you’re not fully protected.

In March, the CDC started releasing guidelines to follow after you're fully vaccinated. Here's what you can do...

  • NEW – Shed the mask. Fully vaccinated Americans no longer need to wear masks or practice social distancing indoors or outdoors – but there are exceptions:

    • Vaccinated Americans must continue to follow their local, federal, state, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations.

    • If you are immunocompromised and fully vaxxed, consult your doctor before ditching your face covering.

    • Masks are still required on buses, trains, planes, and public transportation.

    • And, if you develop COVID-19 symptoms (even if you're vaccinated) you'll need to put that mask back on and get tested.

  • Also, say ‘byeee’ to quarantining if you're exposed to COVID-19 and aren’t showing symptoms.

Note: CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky warned that there is always a chance that these guidelines may need to be amended since the virus can be unpredictable.

What about travel?

In early April, the CDC updated its travel guidelines, saying fully vaccinated people can travel within the US at low risk to themselves. And don’t need to be tested or quarantined afterward as long as they take precautions while traveling. Think: wearing a mask, avoiding crowds, washing their hands.

The agency also issued guidance on international travel. Here’s what it says about fully vaccinated people who’re heading out of the country…

  • You don’t need to get a COVID-19 test before travel unless it’s required by your destination

  • You don’t need to quarantine after coming back into the US unless it’s required by a state, tribal, or local jurisdiction

  • You still need a negative COVID-19 test result before hopping on a plane back to the US and to get a test three to five days after returning

  • You should continue to take precautions while traveling abroad (see: above).

If you’re not fully vaccinated, the CDC still says you shouldn’t travel unless it’s essential. But if you are planning to get away, here are some guidelines to stay safe.

Here are some resources to help with your vaccine journey… 

There’s a lot of info out there about the COVID-19 vaccines. And it can be confusing to figure out where to begin (we've got some tips for that here). So to make your search a little easier, here are some websites and tools to help you get the info you need.

Plan Your Vaccine. This website helps you plan your vaccination visit. You can find out about eligibility, as well as vaccination sites near you. Info is available in English, Spanish, and Mandarin.

VaccineFinder. This tool helps you find clinics, pharmacies, and other locations that administer vaccines. You can filter it by the type of vaccine and how close or far away sites are. Heads up: info may be limited for some states as more providers update locations. 

FAQs on COVID-19 vaccination. You might have some more Qs about the vaccine, including the side effects and the costs. Here are your answers, courtesy of the CDC.

What to know about the top four vaccines. We Skimm’d how vaccines get developed and approved, and what you need to know about the top four: Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and AstraZeneca.

Myths vs facts on the vaccines. There’s been false info spreading about them, like that they can alter your DNA or impact fertility. Experts from Johns Hopkins are setting the record straight, “MythBusters” style.

Best practices for posting about your vaccine on social media. The Better Business Bureau’s tip? Don’t share your vaccine card on social media. Here’s why and what to post instead.


When the pandemic started a year ago, the idea of having a COVID-19 vaccine at our disposal within months felt like a pipe dream. Now we have three authorized vaccines and millions of Americans getting inoculated every day. But we have to keep up the fight against the virus as the country aims to get closer to herd immunity, and not let our guard down.

Last updated on May 13 – Added the CDC's latest mask guidance for fully vaccinated individuals.

Skimm'd by Maria Martinolich and Kamini Ramdeen

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