Editor’s note: This story was originally published on March 10, 2021, and has been updated to reflect the latest CDC guidelines.
As countries push forward vaccination efforts to curb the pandemic that has taken more than 2.9 million lives around the world, people who are waiting to receive a COVID-19 vaccine have a lot to look forward to.
The United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been closely tracking the progress of vaccine distribution to update its guidelines on what fully vaccinated people can do safely. It defines someone as “fully vaccinated” two weeks after they have received their second dose of a two-dose vaccine, like the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or two weeks after a single-dose vaccine, like Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine.
Earlier this month, federal health agencies in the US paused use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine because of reports that it may be linked to a blood clotting disorder, according to the New York Times. Only six recipients reported the development of blood clots after receiving the vaccine, out of 6.8 million doses administered.
After reviewing the reports of blood clots, the CDC determined that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine’s “known and potential benefits outweigh its known and potential risks” and recommended its use resume in the US, according to a statement released Friday.
It's normal for health regulators to pause the rollout of vaccines to investigate reports of side effects, and both the CDC and United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will continue to monitor reports of side effects arising out of COVID-19 vaccinations.
The CDC’s updated guidelines offer a glimpse at what life could be like as the United States begins to safely return to everyday activities and will be updated as more people are vaccinated and additional scientific evidence becomes available, according to the CDC. For those who are anxious to get their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, it may help to look at countries who are further along in vaccination efforts to see what's in store.
Two nations that are setting an example for what the world will look like once it is vaccinated are Seychelles and Bhutan, which have currently given at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to 67% and 62% of their total populations, respectively, according to the Oxford University-based publication Our World in Data. Another country that has risen as a global leader through its quick and efficient vaccination campaign is Israel.
With over half of its population at least partially vaccinated to date, the country has lifted restrictions to allow “green pass holders” — people over 16 who are fully vaccinated — to resume indoor dining and gather in stadiums with up to 1,500 people. As COVID-19 cases continue to fall in Israel, government leaders have discussed easing other lockdown measures, such as increasing the number of people allowed to gather in public, according to the Times of Israel.
Global inoculation initiatives are critical in the effort to get the pandemic under control before dangerous variants halt vaccination progress, as is the need to ensure vaccine equity across the world. If you have the opportunity to get a COVID-19 vaccine, experts say you definitely should take whichever approved one you can to give the world a better chance at ending the pandemic.
For now, here are six things you can look forward to doing once you are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
1. You can hang out with people who are also vaccinated — indoors and without a mask.
If you’ve longed for the days when you could gather with friends for dinner or a birthday party, you should sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as you’re eligible. The CDC says that it is safe for fully vaccinated people to gather indoors without wearing masks or having to be six feet apart, allowing you to hug the people you’ve missed seeing in person over the last year.
2. You can visit your family and friends that haven’t been vaccinated.
If you live away from your family members and have missed being able to visit them indoors, the new CDC guidelines can dispel some of your anxiety about how to gather safely. If you are vaccinated, you can visit with unvaccinated people — like your siblings or favorite aunt — without wearing masks as long as they live in one household and do not have an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
3. You do not have to quarantine for COVID-19 unless you have symptoms.
If you’ve been around someone who has COVID-19, the CDC states that you do not need to stay away from others or get tested unless you have symptoms or live in a group setting. With quarantine causing a toll on mental health, people who are fully vaccinated can look forward to safely bypassing quarantine regulations based on recent evidence that suggests fully vaccinated people are less likely to be asymptomatic and transmit the virus to others.
4. You can travel domestically without having to quarantine or receive a negative COVID-19 test.
The CDC has relied on recent studies about vaccine efficacy against SARS-CoV-2 infection and variant strains to determine how fully vaccinated people can safely travel. As of April 2, the agency announced that once you have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you can travel domestically with little risk to yourself and others, as long as you continue to take precautions while traveling — wearing a mask, avoiding crowds, socially distancing, and washing hands frequently.
The CDC discourages non-essential domestic travel for people who are not fully vaccinated and advises them to continue taking the usual precautions if they must travel, such as getting tested before and after traveling and self-quarantining.
5. You can travel internationally without getting tested beforehand.
Fully vaccinated people can travel internationally without needing to get a COVID-19 test unless they are required to by the international destination. The only stipulation is that you must have a negative COVID-19 test result before boarding a flight back to the United States, as well receive a negative COVID-19 test upon returning from international travel.
6. You can gather outdoors without wearing a mask, as long as it isn’t crowded.
Once you’re fully vaccinated, you can safely get back to seeing friends and family from mixed households outside without a mask, according to public health experts. The only stipulation is that you should still wear a mask outdoors if you’re in a crowded area or venue.
While these guidelines offer a glimmer of hope for recovery and plenty of reasons to get the vaccine, the CDC still recommends that vaccinated people remain vigilant — and protect themselves and others when in public by wearing masks, staying at least six feet apart, and avoiding medium or large gatherings.
As more information about COVID-19 is discovered, the center’s guidelines can provide a welcome respite from COVID-19 anxiety as vaccine rollouts allow people to take the first steps toward returning to normal activities.
Disclosure: Johnson & Johnson is a partner of Global Citizen.