When Can I Go to the Doctor's Office Again After Being Fully Vaccinated?

Doctor's office check up COVID.

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Key Takeaways

  • Experts say that it's safe to visit your primary care provider, dentist, or specialty doctor, especially if you've been fully vaccinated.
  • Healthcare facilities strictly follow public health guidelines to keep their patients safe, and many healthcare workers are already fully vaccinated as well.
  • When you go see your healthcare provider, remember to follow COVID-19 safety precautions like wearing a mask and maintaining physical distance.

For many people, staying at home during the COVID-19 pandemic meant foregoing medical treatment and regular checkups. As vaccine rollout steadily increases and more people are becoming fully vaccinated, many are wondering when it will be safe enough to visit healthcare facilities again.

“COVID-19 is not the only important health concern," Richard C. Wender, MD, chair of family medicine and community health at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, tells Verywell. “We have been deeply concerned about delayed care and the long-term loss of life as a result. We know that patients with serious symptoms have avoided care."

If you're on the fence about abandoning telehealth consultations to see healthcare providers in person, you’ll be glad to know that experts encourage fully vaccinated individuals to seek the care they need. Here’s why they say it’s safe to schedule the check-up or medical procedure that you've been putting off.

Seeing Your Primary Care Provider

Physicians’ offices have been committed to patient safety since the start of the pandemic and have strictly followed public health guidelines to keep themselves and their patients safe.

“Everyone, vaccinated or not vaccinated, can feel safe and comfortable seeing their primary care clinicians whenever they need to right now,” Wender says, citing a few changes your primary care provider's (PCP) office has likely made to keep patients safe during the pandemic.

Most (if not all) offices now screen patients before they come in, and patients with potential COVID-19 symptoms are asked not to come. Patients who make it in without prior screenings still abide by the existing protocols and are treated with extra care, provided with isolation room and extra personal protective equipment, according to Wender. He also adds that an overwhelming majority of healthcare workers have already been vaccinated, only adding to your safety.

According to Karen Jubanyik, MD, emergency medicine physician at Yale Medicine in Connecticut, because many people put their health care on hold due to the pandemic, it’s important to see PCPs now especially because they can:

  • Screen for health conditions that don’t present many symptoms until they are severe, like diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol
  • Direct patients to specialists as needed to evaluate for advanced cardiac testing, dermatologic evaluation, or sleep studies
  • Perform cancer screenings and order age-appropriate cancer screening tests based on risk, which may include mammograms, pap smears, colonoscopy, etc.
  • Make referrals for mental health treatment, as well as alcohol, tobacco, and other substance use disorder treatment
  • Share resources or refer social workers to people who have experienced intimate partner violence

You might not need an annual checkup depending on your age, previous medical conditions, and family history.

However, "there are countless benefits to seeing a PCP, and to miss the opportunity to address any number of potential problems is much more dangerous than not going due to COVID-19 concerns, especially for those [who are] vaccinated,” Jubanyik tells Verywell.

Going to the Dentist

Much like doctors’ offices, virus transmission in dentists’ offices has been very low because they screen patients effectively before they come in and limit the number of people that are allowed in the office at one time, Wender says. 

“If you are vaccinated, you have little to worry about in terms of getting COVID-19 from your dentist,” Jubanyik says. “You are free to ask if the dentist and staff have been vaccinated as well. They do not have to tell you, but if they are vaccinated, it is likely that they would give out this information to a patient who asks.”

Dentists have been very careful throughout the pandemic and wear high-quality personal protective equipment, Wender says. However, it’s still sensible to be concerned about their safety protocols.

According to Jubanyik, if you’re concerned, you can call ahead and ask them whether they limit non-essential visitors accompanying patients, require everyone in the office to wear masks, perform office sanitizing procedures, and eliminate waiting room time.

“For patients in need of any emergency care, don’t hesitate," Wender says. "If you have the luxury of waiting a little longer for dental care, wait to be vaccinated and then get in right away. Having more and more vaccinated patients will make it even safer.”

What This Means For You

If you are fully vaccinated, you can already see your primary care provider, dentist, or specialty doctor in person to seek the care that you need. Experts say even if you haven't been fully vaccinated you shouldn't delay your health care. However, this does not mean throwing caution to the wind. You still need to take safety measures like wearing a mask and maintaining physical distance when seeking in-person care.

Factors to Consider Before Going for a Check-Up

Although fully vaccinated individuals can already see their healthcare providers in person, there are still some factors that you might want to consider.

Reasons to Seek Care Immediately

Experts say that you should not delay health care if you have any serious medical concerns.

“For those who need specialty care [such as] cancer treatments of any kind, heart disease management, you name it—it’s vital that people not delay or be frightened.  We can take care of all patients safely,” Wender says. “Get [the care you need] now—whether or not you are vaccinated.”

If you have a potentially dangerous medical concern that warrants hospital admission through the emergency department, such as chest pain, confusion or changes in mental status, changes in vision, sudden and severe pain, and shortness of breath, you should seek care immediately.

“Any emergency or concerning symptoms means you should see your provider right away, even if not fully vaccinated,” Jubanyik says. “A breast or testicular lump, blood in your stool, new headaches, changes in a skin mole, loss of appetite, weight loss, unexplained fevers, fatigue, alcohol use disorder, substance use disorder, depression symptoms, especially if suicidal feelings, are all reasons to seek medical attention without waiting.”

Reasons to Delay

For those who are not certain whether they need to be seen by a doctor or not, experts recommend scheduling a telehealth consultation first.

“Many physicians, PCPs, and specialists will now be encountering a backlog of patients who should have been seen in the past year," Jubanyik says. "If you are young, healthy, and had good medical care up to the start of the pandemic, and have no specific symptoms or concerns, there might be some sense in letting others ‘go first’ as there are likely people with more pressing conditions."

There are also plenty of people whose specialists are located in different cities or even states, which involves plenty of travel through public transportation. Depending on the urgency of the medical concern, it might be better to postpone a visit or explore telehealth options rather than making the trip.

Important Safety Precautions

Fully vaccinated individuals who have decided on seeing their PCP, dentist, or specialty doctor still need to take the following safety measures:

  • Respond to the pre-screening honestly: If you’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19, had any of its symptoms, or had a recent positive test, do the visit by telehealth if possible, Wender says.
  • Wear a well-fitting, high-quality mask: Make sure that it goes over your mouth and nose. Jubanyik recommends double masking whenever possible.
  • Practice proper hand hygiene: Wash your hands often or use alcohol or sanitizers. Healthcare providers often offer these in their facilities as well.
  • Keep appropriate distance when inside the office: Maintain physical distance and stay at least 6 feet away from other people.
  • Have a good transportation plan: If you plan to take public transportation, take all the usual safety precautions and find out how the transportation company is handling social distancing, Jubanyik says.

“Have faith. Health care settings of all kinds have learned how to keep patients safe," Wender says. "Get the care you need—don’t hesitate."

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.

By Carla Delgado
Carla M. Delgado is a health and culture writer based in the Philippines.