CDC: Fully Vaccinated People Don't Need to Quarantine After COVID-19 Exposure

Doctor in personal protective equipment vaccinating a patient.

Luis Alvarez / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

  • New CDC guidelines say people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 do not need to quarantine after exposure to the virus.
  • However, there are certain criteria fully vaccinated people must meet, and exceptions to this rule.
  • Doctors stress that vaccinated people may still be able to transmit the virus to others, so safety precautions are still important.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new guidelines stating that people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 don’t need to quarantine after being exposed to the virus. This is a departure from previous guidance that recommended everyone who had been exposed to quarantine.

“Fully vaccinated persons who meet criteria will no longer be required to quarantine following an exposure to someone with COVID-19,” the updated guidance reads. “Vaccinated persons with an exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 are not required to quarantine.”

There are some nuances to this, though. The CDC says that not everyone who is vaccinated should skip quarantining after exposure, only those that meet certain criteria.

What This Means For You

If you’ve been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you will not have to quarantine after exposure to the virus if you meet the CDC's criteria. However, experts urge caution in interacting with others after a known exposure, just in case.

The CDC's Criteria

The CDC listed specific guidelines on who can avoid quarantining after a COVID-19 exposure, including:

  • People who have been fully vaccinated
  • People who were fully vaccinated more than two weeks ago
  • People who were fully vaccinated within three months of the exposure
  • People who have stayed asymptomatic since the current COVID-19 exposure

People who don’t meet the above criteria should still quarantine, the CDC says.

However, there is an exception to this rule. The CDC says that vaccinated patients and residents in healthcare settings should continue to quarantine after exposure to someone with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19. “This exception is due to the unknown vaccine effectiveness in this population, the higher risk of severe disease and death, and challenges with social distancing in healthcare settings,” the guidance reads.

Practicing Safety Precautions After Vaccination

If you’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19 and have been fully vaccinated, the CDC still recommends watching for symptoms for up to 14 days after your exposure. And, if you develop symptoms like fever, cough, or shortness of breath, the organization recommends being tested for the virus.

The CDC stated that fully vaccinated people should still follow guidance on preventing the spread of COVID-19, including wearing a face mask, social distancing, and frequent hand washing, whether they've had a known exposure or not. The vaccines don't offer 100% protection from COVID-19 and transmission may still be possible.

“The vaccines are amazing, but no vaccine is perfect,” Lewis Nelson, MD, professor and chair of emergency medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School in New Jersey, tells Verywell.

The new guidance is “based on our current understanding of the efficacy of available vaccinations in preventing symptomatic COVID-19” and also take into account current knowledge of how long protective antibodies remain after vaccination—at least three months but likely longer, Stacey Rose, MD, assistant professor of medicine in infectious diseases at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, tells Verywell.

But, Rose says, it’s important for people to understand that the risk of contracting COVID-19 after exposure isn’t zero, even if they've been vaccinated. “There is also the possibility that vaccinated persons could acquire the virus and remain asymptomatic, but still spread the virus to others,” she says. “Everyone should continue to engage in strategies to minimize the potential for spreading SARS-2-CoV, even those who have been fully vaccinated.”

Nelson says that the new guidance is “based on sound reasoning and compelling data,” adding that he’s “fully supportive” of it. “It is indeed progress and great news,” he says. “I hope that we will be able to extend it beyond the current three-month interval, but that decision awaits more data such as variant strains and circulating antibody efficacy and duration.”

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

1 Source
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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Interim Clinical Considerations for Use of mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines Currently Authorized in the United States.

By Korin Miller
Korin Miller is a health and lifestyle journalist who has been published in The Washington Post, Prevention, SELF, Women's Health, The Bump, and Yahoo, among other outlets.