Although the COVID-19 vaccine rollout is well underway, situations might arise that could be cause for inquiry. For example, if a patient is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, what should they do if exposed by a co-worker? If they live in a group home and are exposed by a fellow resident, do they still need to quarantine?
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released the first set of public health recommendations for fully vaccinated persons. For the purpose of the guidance, the CDC considered people fully vaccinated for COVID-19 ≥2 weeks after they received the second dose in a 2-dose series (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna), or ≥2 weeks after they received a single-dose vaccine (Johnson & Johnson/Janssen). In part 2 of our series on the CDC guidance below, find more questions you may be asked by patients and the answers to help you prepare.
Patient: “What can I do now that I’m fully vaccinated?” According to the CDC, fully vaccinated persons can:
• Visit with others who are fully vaccinated indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing.
• Visit with unvaccinated persons from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing.
• Refrain from quarantine and testing following a known exposure if asymptomatic.
Patient: “Do I still need to take precautions in public now that I’m fully vaccinated?” In public spaces, fully vaccinated persons should continue to follow guidance to protect themselves and others, including wearing a well-fitted mask; maintaining physical distance; avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces; covering coughs and sneezes; washing hands often; and following any applicable workplace or school guidance.
Patient: “I’m vaccinated against COVID-19, but I have a fever and get fatigued walking around my home. Do I still need to quarantine?” Yes. While the risk that fully vaccinated people could become infected is low, any vaccinated person who experiences COVID-19-related symptoms should isolate themselves from others, get evaluated for COVID-19, and tested for SARS-CoV-2 if indicated. Also, symptomatic fully vaccinated people should inform their health care provider of their vaccination status at the time of presentation to care.
Patient: “I’m a pharmacy technician who has been fully vaccinated. I was exposed to COVID-19 by a customer 1 week ago, but I’m not displaying any symptoms. Do I need to get tested?” Fully vaccinated people with no COVID-19-like symptoms DO NOT need to quarantine or be tested following an exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, as their risk of infection is low.
Patient: “I’m a pharmacy technician who has been fully vaccinated. I was exposed to COVID-19 by a customer 1 week ago, but I’m not displaying any symptoms. Do I need to get tested?” Although the patient does not need to quarantine, the CDC recommends that fully vaccinated people who do not quarantine should still monitor for COVID-19-like symptoms for 14 days following an exposure. If they DO experience symptoms, they should then quarantine, get clinically evaluated for COVID-19 (including testing, if indicated) and inform their health care provider of their vaccination status when they present for care.
Patient: “I was exposed to COVID-19 by a fellow resident of the group home I live in. I’m fully vaccinated, but should I still take precautions?” Yes. Fully vaccinated residents of non-healthcare congregate settings (eg, correctional facilities, group homes) should quarantine for 14 days and be tested for SARS-CoV-2 after an exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. This is because residential congregate settings may face high turnover of residents, a higher risk of transmission, and challenges in maintaining recommended physical distance.
Patient: “I was exposed to COVID-19 from my co-worker at a local manufacturing plant. I’m fully vaccinated, but do I need to quarantine?” According to the CDC, fully vaccinated employees of non-healthcare congregate settings and other high-density workplaces (eg, meat processing and manufacturing plants) with no COVID-19-like symptoms DO NOT need to quarantine following an exposure. However, testing following an exposure and through routine workplace screening programs (if available) is still recommended.
For more questions and answers on the CDC recommendations, check out part 1: CDC Guidance for Fully Vaccinated Persons: Questions Patients May Ask, Answers to Help Physicians Prepare.