Clinical Guidelines for Family Physicians

New guidance for those fully vaccinated against COVID-19


As has been dominating the headlines, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released updated public health guidance for those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. This guidance was issued on May 13, 2021, and has potentially provided some relief to those who are fully vaccinated, though some are concerned and confused about the implications of this guidance.

Dr. Santina J. G. Wheat, associate professor of family and community medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago

Dr. Santina J.G. Wheat

This new guidance applies to those who are fully vaccinated as indicated by 2 weeks after the second dose in a 2-dose series or 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine. Those who meet these criteria no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance themselves from others in both indoor and outdoor settings. For those not fully vaccinated, masking and social distancing should continue to be practiced.

The new guidance indicates that quarantine after a known exposure is no longer necessary.

Unless required by local, state, or territorial health authorities, testing is no longer required following domestic travel for fully vaccinated individuals. A negative test is still required prior to boarding an international flight to the United States and testing 3-5 days after arrival is still recommended. Self-quarantine is no longer required after international travel for fully vaccinated individuals.

The new guidance recommends that individuals who are fully vaccinated not participate in routine screening programs when feasible. Finally, if an individual has tested positive for COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status, that person should isolate and not visit public or private settings for a minimum of ten days.1

Updated guidance for health care facilities

In addition to changes for the general public in all settings, the CDC updated guidance for health care facilities on April 27, 2021. These updated guidelines allow for communal dining and visitation for fully vaccinated patients and their visitors. The guidelines indicate that fully vaccinated health care personnel (HCP) do not require quarantine after exposure to patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 as long as the HCP remains asymptomatic. They should, however, continue to utilize personal protective equipment as previously recommended. HCPs are able to be in break and meeting rooms unmasked if all HCPs are vaccinated.2

There are some important caveats to these updated guidelines. They do not apply to those who have immunocompromising conditions, including those using immunosuppressant agents. They also do not apply to locations subject to federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.

Those who work or reside in correction or detention facilities and homeless shelters are also still required to test after known exposures. Masking is still required by all travelers on all forms of public transportation into and within the United States.

Most importantly, the guidelines apply only to those who are fully vaccinated. Finally, no vaccine is perfect. As such, anyone who experiences symptoms indicative of COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status, should obtain viral testing and isolate themselves from others.1,2


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