Do Vaccinated People Have to Quarantine If They're Exposed to COVID?

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Key Takeaways

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that it is not necessary for vaccinated people to quarantine after being exposed to someone with COVID-19 unless they have symptoms.
  • Isolation, rather than quarantine, is recommended if a person tests positive for COVID-19—even if they have been vaccinated and even if they do not feel sick.
  • The recommendations and rules are different depending on where you live. Check with your local health department to confirm how many days are required for isolation and whether testing is needed.

When the pandemic first started, you needed to quarantine yourself for 14 days if you were exposed to someone with COVID-19. With more than 182 million Americans now vaccinated against the virus, there are questions about whether quarantine standards will change.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently updated its recommendations on quarantining to include vaccinated people. Here's what you need to know.

Do I Have to Quarantine If I'm Vaccinated?

As of September 18, the CDC says that if you are fully vaccinated (either with two shots of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or one shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine), you can skip quarantine if you are exposed to someone with COVID-19 and if you're not experiencing symptoms.

If you experience shortness of breath, fever, or other COVID-19 symptoms—whether you've been vaccinated or not—you should quarantine yourself immediately. The guidance is the same if you have had COVID-19 within the last 90 days.

What Does "Exposure" Mean?

Exposure means that you have spent more than 15 minutes out of a 24 hour period in close contact with a person who is infected with COVID-19.

Do I Need a COVID Test?

Testing is still one of the best ways to know for sure if you have COVID. At-home tests are available and allow you to quickly and safely confirm whether you've caught COVID or not. You can also get tested at your doctor's office, clinics, hospitals, and many pharmacies.

The CDC recommends that you get tested three to five days after exposure, even if you do not have any symptoms. You should also wear a face mask indoors for 14 days or until you get a negative COVID test result.

If you do not get tested for COVID, the CDC says that you need to quarantine for 10 days. You might be able to shorten your quarantine if you get a negative COVID test result.

If you get a negative test result on day five or later, the CDC says that you only need to quarantine for seven days. However, you should continue to monitor yourself for symptoms and wear a mask when you are indoors for 14 days after you were exposed.

Quarantine vs. Isolation

Kenneth Campbell, DBE, MPH, MBA, MA, assistant professor and program director of Master of Health Administration (online) at Tulane University, tells Verywell that quarantine is different than isolation.

  • Quarantine is the term for what you do when you have only been exposed (in close contact with) someone who has COVID. You do not need to quarantine if you've been fully vaccinated unless you are feeling sick. Unvaccinated people need to quarantine regardless of whether or not they feel sick.
  • Isolation is the term for what you do when you have a confirmed COVID infection, even if you do not have symptoms. If you have a positive COVID test you need to isolate immediately whether you are vaccinated or not.

If you develop symptoms, quarantine yourself immediately and contact your doctor. While you are in quarantine, you need to stay at home and you also need to stay away from the other people that you live with. Ideally, this means limiting yourself to one room in your home and, if possible, using a separate bathroom.

If you receive a positive COVID test result, you also need to isolate for 10 days—even if you do not feel sick. This is especially important if you live with people who cannot get vaccinated yet, such as kids under the age of 12.

Check Local Health Sources

If you're fully vaccinated and you do get a breakthrough case of COVID, you might have only mild symptoms and you might not be sick for as long as someone who is unvaccinated. However, that does not mean that you can skip—or even shorten—your isolation.

Campbell says that COVID testing should be the final word on whether it's safe for you to rejoin society, but that how long you spend away from others and the requirements for testing will vary based on where you live.

"Some health departments have been giving the option to leave quarantine after 10 days without testing," says Campbell. "Others have said it's seven days after receiving a negative test."

To make sure that you understand the requirements where you live, check with your local health department.

What This Means For You

If you are fully vaccinated and you are exposed to someone with COVID, the CDC says that you do not have to quarantine if you do not have symptoms. You should still get tested three to five days after you were exposed and, if you test positive, you'll need to isolate yourself immediately.

Getting tested might also allow you to shorten your time in quarantine. Check with your healthcare provider or local health department to find out more about the testing requirements where you live.

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.

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Quarantine and Isolation.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). When You've Been Fully Vaccinated.

By Rachel Murphy
Rachel Murphy is a Kansas City, MO, journalist with more than 10 years of experience.