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The Reality of What Being Vaccinated Actually Means

By Carrie Borzillo  •   March 22, 2021

Photo Credit: by Artem Podrez from Pexels
Photo Credit: by Artem Podrez from Pexels

Disclaimer: The numbers, statistics, and CDC recommendations are as of March 17, 2021. Please check with your doctor about anything vaccine-related and/or www.cdc.gov for the most updated information on all things COVID-19 and pandemic-related.

So, you just got vaccinated and might be wondering, now what? Does this mean I can go wherever I want? Hug anyone? Hop on a plane? Throw my masks away? Well, unfortunately, most answers to those commonly asked questions are a “no” or “sort of.” Yes, these are confusing times as this coronavirus pandemic carries on, and the rules and regulations are constantly changing, especially as the COVID-19 virus is also constantly changing with new strains and discoveries popping up regularly.

The good news is: You are one of the lucky millions of people to get one of the COVID-19 vaccines, while millions more are still waiting their turn in line. More than 400 million doses of any of the COVID-19 vaccines available have been administered to 132 countries with a rate of about 9.64 million doses a day, according to Bloomberg data. To find out when it’s your turn to get vaccinated, you can enter your information and answer a few basic questions into your state’s local database, which you can easily find by Googling: “when can I get vaccinated for covid?” For example, the official California site is https://myturn.ca.gov and the official Toronto site is here.

Before we get into what a newly vaccinated person can and cannot do, we must understand what being “fully vaccinated” actually means. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you are fully vaccinated two weeks after your second dose in a two-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or two weeks after a single-dose treatment from Johnson & Johnson. Until these two weeks are up, you still need to follow any local guidelines pertaining to mask-wearing, social distancing, and travel.

If you haven’t been vaccinated yet and are wondering if you are eligible, you should consult your physician and go over your medical history in full and let your doctors know of any allergies or reactions you’ve ever had to common prescription drugs or over-the-counter medications. For instance, the CDC reported that people who were allergic to polyethylene glycol (PEG) or polysorbate had experienced anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction, after being vaccinated. So, if you have that allergy, you should not get vaccinated. They also warn that if someone has a severe allergic reaction after the first shot, they should not get the second shot but to consult your physician as well.

For those who are fully vaccinated already, here are answers to the most frequently asked questions about what being vaccinated actually means. (The information provided below comes from the CDC and other infectious disease experts and medical professionals.)

Do I still have to wear a mask?

Yes and no. According to the CDC’s latest recommendations, you don’t have to wear a mask if you are only around other fully vaccinated people. But, as of today, if you are in larger crowds, in public, or with unvaccinated people from more than one other household, it’s still advised to wear a mask. It’s also still advised to wear a mask in medical facilities and around high-risk people. This might change in the coming weeks or months as more people get vaccinated.

Can I gather indoors with friends and family?

Yes. It’s okay to now gather indoors with fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask or social distancing. But for unvaccinated people, the CDC says this, “You can gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household (for example, visiting with relatives who all live together) without masks unless any of those people or anyone they live with has an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

Can I hug people?

Fully vaccinated people can hug other fully vaccinated people. Remember: Fully vaccinated means it’s been two weeks since your last shot and you don’t have any symptoms.

Can I see my grandkids?

Most likely, young children have not been vaccinated yet and the general rule is that vaccinated people and non-vaccinated people still need to wear masks when they see each other and adhere to the social distancing rules. But, infectious disease specialist, Kristin Englund, MD, recently said in an interview with the Cleveland Clinic that grandparents can actually visit their grandkids even if they have not been vaccinated.

“Let’s say you’re a grandparent and you want to see your grandchild. Your grandchild most likely hasn’t been vaccinated yet. But as long as you’re fully vaccinated and you’re keeping your interactions together limited to a small group that’s from the same household, you can now see your grandchild without having to wear a mask,” explains Dr. Englund.

Do I need to get tested or quarantine myself if I’m in contact with someone with COVID-19?

You don’t need to quarantine or get tested if you find out you’ve been in contact with someone who contracted the virus unless you have symptoms or you live in a group home, such as a correctional or detention facility or other type of group home.

Does this mean I can’t get COVID-19?

No, you can still test positive for COVID-19 and you still can give it to someone else because no vaccine is 100% effective. According to Yale Medicine, the Pfizer vaccine has a 95% efficacy rate, Moderna has a 94.1% efficacy rate, and Johnson & Johnson has a 72% efficacy rate. There is always a very small chance that you are part of that small percentage that it does not work on.

Can I fly now?

The CDC hasn’t updated travel guidelines for fully vaccinated people yet. But, they advise that vaccinated people should still delay domestic and international travel. If you do travel, you’ll still need to follow CDC requirements and recommendations.

Can I walk into any store or place of business without a mask

No. Everyone still needs to adhere to individual businesses guidelines. If they require a mask for entry to their store, business, restaurant, or your place of work, you cannot say, “But I got vaccinated!” If a mask is required for entry, that rule is for everyone — vaccinated or not.

Does the vaccine interfere with other prescription drugs?

Your doctor is the best person to answer this for you, so consult your personal physician before getting any vaccination. But, in general, most medical professionals say that the majority of the most common prescription drugs will work the same after you get a COVID-19 vaccine. One exception might be prescription drugs that affect the immune system might not be as effective after taking the vaccine.

Can I still take over-the-counter drugs?

Many people have thought it was a good idea to take an ibuprofen such as Advil, Motrin, or Tylenol before getting vaccinated to ease any pain or symptoms. First, the shot is a quick prick of a needle and really isn’t painful. Doctors recommend not taking these over-the-counter drugs before getting the vaccine because they might alter your immune response. Likewise, for anyone taking acetaminophen, such as Midol, Excedrin, or NyQuil, for the same reason.


Carrie Borzillo is a freelance sex/relationship writer for Mens Health, DAME & https://www.canadianpharmacyking.com.


The purpose of the above content is to raise awareness only and does not advocate treatment or diagnosis. This information should not be substituted for your physician's consultation and it should not indicate that use of the drug is safe and suitable for you or your (pet). Seek professional medical advice and treatment if you have any questions or concerns.