Life After Vaccine: Common Questions and Answers

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Can vaccinated and unvaccinated people from different households visit each other?

It depends. If one of the households has people at high-risk of severe COVID-19 illness, then you should visit outdoors or indoors with the windows open, wearing well-fitted masks, and maintaining physical distance (at least 6 feet / 2 meters).

If the unvaccinated or partially vaccinated household does not have any high-risk individuals, then visiting outdoors or in a private indoor setting with one fully vaccinated household without anyone wearing masks is a low risk of spreading COVID-19.

What if my household has people who are fully vaccinated and others who aren’t?

If only some people in your household are fully vaccinated, you should take precautions as if your household is unvaccinated. This means you should wear masks and stay 6 feet (2 meters) apart when visiting with people from other partially or unvaccinated households – and avoid those gatherings if possible.

You can visit with people from one fully-vaccinated household at a time as long as no one in your household is at risk of severe COVID-19 illness.

Can I gather with a large group if we’re all vaccinated?

Gatherings between fully vaccinated people are likely safe. Fully vaccinated people can also attend crowded outdoor events, like a live performance or sporting event, without wearing masks. Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people should wear masks at medium or large in-person gatherings. If the gathering is in a public indoor space, then everyone over age 2 must wear masks, regardless of vaccination status.

Once I’m vaccinated, can I resume public activities like eating at a restaurant?

The risk of COVID-19 infection during public social activities – like dining indoors at a restaurant or going to the gym – is lower for fully vaccinated people. Fully vaccinated people can gather with each other without masks or physical distancing in private settings or outdoors. Everyone over age 2 must wear a mask in public indoor settings regardless of vaccination status.

Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people should continue to wear a mask and stay 6 feet (2 meters) apart in all public settings or when visiting with each other.

Will I need to show proof of vaccination?

In the future, you may need to prove you’re vaccinated against COVID-19. Even now, many businesses are offering perks to vaccinated people. So treat your vaccination paper card like a birth certificate or other official document! Take a photo of it and then store it at home. Read more about vaccination cards and immunization records.

What if I’m partially vaccinated?

For two-dose vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna), you’re considered “partially vaccinated” if you’ve received just one dose or if two weeks haven’t yet passed since your second dose. For a one-dose vaccine (Johnson and Johnson (J&J)/Janssen), you’re considered “partially vaccinated” if two weeks haven’t yet passed since you got your shot.

While you wait to become fully vaccinated, you should continue to take precautions as if you’re not vaccinated. That means you should:

  • Wear a well-fitted mask and stay 6 feet (2 meters) apart in all public places.
  • Keep gatherings small and outdoors or indoors with the windows open.
  • Wear masks and stay 6 feet (2 meters) apart if you’re gathering with other people who are not yet vaccinated.
  • If no one in your household is at high risk for severe COVID-19 illness, you can visit without masks and physical distance with one fully vaccinated household at a time.
  • Get tested for COVID-19 if you’re experiencing symptoms or know you’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19.
  • Continue to avoid travel unless it is essential. If you do travel, get tested for COVID-19 before and after traveling and quarantine for seven days after traveling.

Can I still get sick from COVID-19 after I’m vaccinated?

Yes, there is still a possibility. The vaccines are effective, but not 100%. If you have COVID-19-like symptoms, you should stay away from others and contact a health care provider. They may recommend a COVID-19 test.

Can I spread COVID-19 after I’m vaccinated?

Infections happen to a smaller proportion of people who are fully vaccinated. However, fully vaccinated people who do become infected with COVID-19 can spread the virus to others.

What should I do if I have been exposed to COVID-19?

If you’re fully vaccinated and have also received your booster, you do not need to quarantine, but you should wear a mask for 10 days following exposure and test for COVID-19 at day 5 after exposure. If it’s been 6 months or more (Moderna/Pfizer) or 2 months or more (Johnson & Johnson) since completing your primary vaccine series, and you have not yet received a booster dose, you must quarantine for 5 days, followed by strict mask use for an additional 5 days. Everyone should get tested at day 5 after exposure, regardless of vaccination status.

How do I know whether I’m experiencing vaccine side effects or I’m sick?

After getting a COVID-19 vaccine, you may have some side effects. These are normal signs that your body is building protection against COVID-19. Your arm may hurt where you got your shot or you may have redness or swelling. You may be tired or have a headache, muscle pain, chills, fever, or nausea. They may affect your ability to do daily activities but should go away in a few days. Some people have no side effects. Learn more about possible side effects after getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

If the symptoms do not go away after a few days, or you have COVID-19-like symptoms several days or more after getting the vaccine, it’s important to stay away from others and contact a health care provider for evaluation. They may recommend a COVID-19 test.

When can I stop wearing a mask in public?

Masks are required for everyone over age 2 in all public indoor settings.

Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people must continue to wear a mask and stay 6 feet (2 meters) apart in all public settings.

Will I need a yearly COVID-19 vaccine booster (like getting a flu shot)?

You should put a reminder on your calendar to get a booster dose when you become eligible: six months after receiving your second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, or two months after receiving the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccine. For more information, please visit our “Vaccine Booster Doses” page.

The CDC recommends that immunocompromised individuals who got the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine get an additional (third) dose. If this applies to you, talk to your health care provider.

How can I manage stress and anxiety around COVID-19?

We understand that the pandemic can affect both your physical and mental health. You are not alone. Many people in Washington are dealing with stress and anxiety related to financial and employment distress, school closures, social isolation, health concerns, grief and loss, and more – not to mention the added anxiety that can come with returning to public activities and the “new normal.”

Here are a few resources that can help manage your stress and anxiety: