Once you’ve been vaccinated: U.S. releases recommended do’s and don’ts

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This story is part of Watching Washington, a regular dispatch from CBC News correspondents reporting on U.S. politics and developments that affect Canadians. 

Here’s a glimpse of what life might look like in the next phase of mass-vaccination against COVID-19, a peek at a future where people are increasingly immune to the deadly virus.

Ahead of Canada in the sprint to vaccinate its citizens, the United States has just released its do’s and don’ts, recommendations for what its newly vaccinated residents should and shouldn’t change.

It’s a useful roadmap for what the coming months might look like.

There’s some good news, and less-good news, in the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control released Monday. The guidelines include numerous caveats, starting with a big one: these instructions apply only to people who have been fully vaccinated.

To meet that definition of being fully vaccinated, according to the CDC, means waiting two weeks after your final jab to allow the last dose to take effect. 

Good news first

It should be fine to gather indoors, without a mask, in the presence of other vaccinated people, two weeks after your final vaccine, the CDC said.

It’s also okay to gather indoors without a mask with unvaccinated people from one other household, so long as none of those people live with someone at increased risk from pre-existing conditions.

Here’s the best news for grandparents: it means being able to see your unvaccinated grandkids, as long as they don’t have an underlying condition. 

If you’ve been near someone with COVID-19, vaccination makes the response easier too. The CDC said there’s no need to isolate or get tested, unless you also show symptoms

If you live in a group setting, like a nursing home, you should still isolate for 14 days and get tested if you’ve been near someone with COVID, the agency said.

The less-good news

The CDC said that in numerous circumstances you should still wear a mask, avoid crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, and remain at least six feet from others.

Those circumstances that require extra precautions include being in public, or around unvaccinated people from more than one household, or being around someone who lives with someone with increased risk.  

Keep avoiding medium or large-sized gatherings, said the CDC.

As for travel: not so fast. The CDC urges people to delay domestic and international travel, and to follow guidelines if they must travel. 

Why all those caveats?

The CDC said there’s still a lot we don’t know about the vaccines: like how effective they are against new variants of the virus, whether vaccinated people can transmit the virus, and how long immunity lasts.

Why it matters to Canada?

Canadian public health officials, seen here at a news conference in December, have not yet issued more relaxed recommendations for vaccinated people, including vaccinated travellers from the U.S. (David Kawai/CP)

Canada’s public health agency has yet to release such vaccination guidelines.

The U.S. guidance offers an early look at the sorts of issues policy makers are grappling with, and into the sorts of instructions Canadians might see as vaccination rates increase. 

If these new suggestions from the U.S. are any indication, the road to normalcy will be winding. Even as vaccinations ramp up, prepare for months of gradual, rather than instantaneous, easing.

Health Canada declined to comment on the U.S. guidelines Monday, and said there’s still too little data on key issues like how long immunity lasts, and whether vaccinated people can still transmit COVID-19.

Also, travellers beware. Being vaccinated doesn’t mean easier entry into Canada.

Health Canada said vaccinated travellers into Canada, by air or by land, will for now still have to quarantine for 14 days and follow mandatory testing requirements.



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