CDC says you can skip quarantine if you're vaccinated, but there's a catch

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has published the latest update to its COVID-19 recommendations, including additional contraindications to the vaccine, additional recommendations for TB testing, and a change to quarantine recommendations now that the mRNA vaccines are rolling out.

Vaccination effort

A number of countries are rolling out the COVID-19 vaccines with the goal of vaccinating enough people to achieve herd immunity. In the US, the CDC says that around 46 million doses have been administered and more than 11 million people have received their second dose.

At this point in time, only two-dose COVID-19 mRNA vaccines are available, though the FDA is currently reviewing Johnson & Johnson's single-dose vaccine with authorization expected to arrive in the coming days. Those in the US can monitor the nation's COVID-19 rollout, including the percentage of doses administered by state, using the CDC's tracker.

Quarantine change

Now that many people are vaccinated, the public has one big question: do you still have to quarantine? The answer is yes if you haven't been vaccinated. However, the CDC's updated guidelines now state that people who have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus no longer need to quarantine if they've been exposed to someone who has COVID-19.

The catch, in this case, is that you must be fully vaccinated — meaning you still must quarantine if you've only received the first dose of the vaccine. You're only fully vaccinated after you're been given the second dose. In addition, the CDC says this update depends on the fully vaccinated person also meeting the following criteria:

- Are fully vaccinated (i.e., ≥2 weeks following receipt of the second dose in a 2-dose series, or ≥2 weeks following receipt of one dose of a single-dose vaccine)

- Are within 3 months following receipt of the last dose in the series

- Have remained asymptomatic since the current COVID-19 exposure

The CDC says that you must meet all three criteria if you want to skip quarantine; everyone else will need to quarantine like usual if they've potentially been exposed to COVID-19. The agency goes on to state:

Although the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission from vaccinated persons to others is still uncertain [...] individual and societal benefits of avoiding unnecessary quarantine may outweigh the potential but unknown risk of transmission, and facilitate the direction of public health resources to persons at highest risk for transmitting SARS-CoV-2 to others.

Watch for symptoms...even if you're vaccinated

The CDC notes that even if you've been vaccinated against the virus, you should still monitor yourself for signs of COVID-19 infection if you suspect that you've been exposed. If symptoms do appear, the agency says you should get evaluated by a doctor and, if necessary, tested to see if you've developed the virus.

Likewise, these guidelines and recommendations will be updated again in the future as new information becomes available and more people are vaccinated.

Prevention is still necessary

Though you may no longer need to quarantine if exposed to the virus, the CDC notes that everyone — including people who are fully vaccinated — is still required to follow preventative measures as mandated by their city, state, and the government.

This includes wearing at least one face mask when in public, avoiding gatherings with people outside of your household, frequently washing your hands, and maintaining a 6ft distance from others. The CDC has a dedicated web page on its prevention guidance, including details on international travel and SARS-CoV-2 variants.