People who are vaccinated might believe they are off the hook from having to worry about travel complications, quarantining, and COVID-19 symptoms. However, vaccinated people still need to be cautious and informed especially if they start experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
Vaccination data in the United States proves that the vaccines are doing their job. They are a strong barrier of protection against the virus, including the new Delta variant which has recently popped up in the US. According to Dr. Jay Butler, the deputy director for infectious diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, currently there is no evidence that immunity is wearing off in people who got the shots in December or January, or that they’re at a higher risk for breakthrough infections.
In Oregon, while around 10% of the breakthrough infections reported to the state were from people living in nursing homes or congregate care facilities, the majority of deaths were older people.
Additionally, the Delta variant has been found in Benton County. The Benton County Public Health office is urging people to get vaccinated if they aren’t already.
Overall breakthrough infections in fully vaccinated people are rare: only 5,186 out of the 157 million people vaccinated by July 6 have been hospitalized or have died. More than 1,500 of those cases were asymptomatic, or the death or hospitalization was not related to COVID-19. However the CDC does believe this is an undercount of actual breakthrough cases.
Vaccinated & Exposed
For the fully vaccinated, the CDC’s guidelines around testing and quarantining after exposure to someone with the coronavirus are different.
“What they are saying is that if you’re fully vaccinated, the chance of you becoming infected with (coronavirus) is much lower, and the chance of you being an asymptomatic carrier is also much reduced, because if you were to be infected, you’re carrying much less virus and therefore are less able to pass it on to others,” said CNN medical analyst, Dr. Leana Wen. “The issue though is with the Delta variant. The Delta variant seems to be present in larger quantities in infected (unvaccinated) people.”
Dr. Albert Ko, the chair of and professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Microbial Diseases at the Yale School of Public Health, warned that officials do not know everything about this variant yet, including how much it could affect the transmission-blocking capacity of the coronavirus vaccines.
If you’re fully vaccinated and were exposed to someone with COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms, here’s what you should be aware of when it comes to monitoring symptoms, testing, quarantining, and other COVID-19 complications.
People who are fully vaccinated but were exposed to COVID-19 and are not experiencing symptoms do not need to receive a coronavirus test. They also don’t need to quarantine since their risk of infection is low. However if you work in health care, a correctional facility, or a homeless shelter, the CDC advises you get tested and monitor your condition. Coronavirus testing is still widely available and easy to access.
If an asymptomatic fully vaccinated person is exposed or suspects they were exposed to COVID-19, but does not get tested, they should still watch for symptoms until two weeks after the suspected exposure.
Wen advises vaccinated people who are around an infected, symptomatic person to get tested and, if the test was negative, to quarantine for seven days before getting another test.
According to Wen, “Even if people are not symptomatic but they have prolonged, close contact with somebody, it is prudent for them to quarantine and be tested, too.”
Wen also suggests vaccinated people to account for any interactions they might have after being exposed to someone who has COVID-19. Saying that “we need to use some common sense here.”
“I don’t want someone coming into work, who then tells me that they just spent the entire night caring for their spouse who’s ill from Covid,” said Wen. “Should that person really be in a crowded conference room with a whole bunch of other people?”
US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy believes that, whether vaccinated or not, symptoms should be cause for a test.
“We have seen that many people are actually not getting tested around the country, even though they have symptoms,” Murthy said.
Travel Restrictions Still in Place
According to the CDC, fully vaccinated people in the US do not need to get a coronavirus test or quarantine before or after domestic travel, unless required by local authorities of the destination or your place of residence. For international flights, quarantining and getting tested beforehand are not necessary unless required by the destination country authorities.
However if you are boarding a flight to the US from anywhere abroad, even if you are fully vaccinated, you must have a negative COVID-19 test or documentation of recovery from the virus. Alternative documentation includes proof of antibodies or the absence of symptoms.
The CDC also advises that international travelers flying into the US get a COVID-19 test three to five days after traveling, regardless of vaccination status. Quarantining is not mandatory after travel unless you are showing symptoms.
Vaccinated & Tested Positive
The CDC advises fully vaccinated people who have experienced COVID-19 symptoms in the past 10 days to get tested and isolate themselves for 10 days if their test is positive. Even if you continuously test negative for the coronavirus but are sick with another type of viral illness, you should still avoid going to work and other public places.
COVID-19 symptoms include but are not limited to:
Fever or chills
Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
Muscle or body aches
New loss of taste or smell
Congestion or runny nose
Nausea or vomiting
Wen advises people who are exposed to COVID-19 and asymptomatic, and are living with people who are unvaccinated or immune-compromised, to get tested as soon as possible regardless of their vaccination status.
“Even if that test was negative, I would continue to quarantine from those vulnerable family members for seven days and then get another test,” said Wen.
According to Ko, the current vaccines are protective against death and hospitalizations, but he still strongly urges people to “err on the side of caution” by watching for symptoms even if your test result comes back negative.
Vaccinated & Infected
Wen said if you develop symptoms from a coronavirus infection, you’ll be less sick than if you weren’t vaccinated. She added that there may be symptoms and you may be uncomfortable, but it’s not likely to progress to hospitalization, and extremely unlikely to lead to death.
More than 99% of US COVID-19 deaths in June were of unvaccinated people. US health officials would like to remind people that with plenty of vaccines available, death from COVD-19 is preventable.
“If you had not gotten vaccinated, you might have ended up in the hospital,” said Wen. “But because you got the vaccine, you have muscle aches and a fever that go away within a few days. I mean, that’s (a) testament to the power of the vaccine.”