CDC Issues Welcome Guidance on Quarantining for Vaccinated People

People who have been fully vaccinated no longer need to quarantine if they contact someone with Covid-19

Photo: Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images

On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shared a welcome new change to their quarantine recommendations. Now, people who are fully vaccinated will no longer need to quarantine if they have been exposed to someone with Covid-19.

The CDC’s general guidance on quarantining recommends that all people who come into contact with someone who has Covid-19 should quarantine for 14 days, with the exception of people who have tested positive for Covid-19 in the last three months and recovered. Now, people who are fully vaccinated have been added to the list of exceptions.

On Twitter, Brown Emergency Medicine emergency physician Megan Ranney, MD, MPH, said: “THIS IS HUGE” (caps hers). In a thread, she answered questions about whether such a move is justified. While Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines have been shown to be highly effective at preventing disease, it’s not clear yet whether they can actually prevent people from becoming infected with and spreading the disease to others.

The changes to the CDC’s guidance imply that a person who has been fully vaccinated is not at risk of becoming infected with Covid-19 after coming into contact with someone who has tested positive.

Is this true? Ranney says that increasing evidence points to yes. Studies she noted in her thread suggest that people who are fully vaccinated may get infected but if they do, they have a lower viral load (less virus in their bodies), which means they are less likely to transmit it to others.

There are caveats, of course. The studies she cites are preliminary, and the CDC says these new quarantine guidelines apply only to people who are fully vaccinated — at least two weeks after getting both doses of a two-dose vaccine or one dose of a single-dose vaccine (remember, immunity takes some time to kick in). These guidelines also apply only up to three months after full vaccination, at least until more is known about how long immunity lasts.

As a reminder, people who have been fully vaccinated are still recommended to wear masks and socially distance.

Despite the many caveats, this is encouraging news. As more people get vaccinated, fewer people will find themselves spending 14 days in quarantine — and fewer people will encounter people who test positive for Covid-19 in the first place.

Read the full CDC guidance here.

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