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Is it safe for a vaccinated person to be with an unvaccinated person?

CDC released guidance for fully vaccinated people, but many wonder if those who have not received their shots are still following safety protocols.

CDC released guidance for fully vaccinated people, but many wonder if those who have not received their shots are still following safety protocols.

With a little over two-thirds of adults at least partially vaccinated against covid-19, much of the population remains unprotected from the deadly virus. May polling from Quinnipiac University showed that sixty-five percent of adults had or planned to get vaccinated. As the percent of the population who has received at least one dose reaches that figure and demand for shots slow, public health experts warn that reaching herd immunity is unlikely.

While the historic vaccination campaign in the US has led to a decrease in new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, community transmission still poses a threat to those who have not gotten poked. On 12 June, over 14,000 new cases were confirmed, more than 20,000 people remained hospitalized, and 413 deaths were recorded.

In May, building on vaccine efficacy data, new research showed that those who have gotten their shots do not spread the virus as easily compared to their unvaccinated counterparts. In light of these new findings, the CDC released new guidance for those vaccinated that allows them to move and mingle more freely. However, many of those who have opted out of vaccination, have reported that they plan to return to normal life, unafraid of the possible risks. In a poll from Morning Consult published in May, unvaccinated respondents were more likely to report that they were willing to resume activities such as taking a cruise or traveling on an airplane, eating out in a restaurant indoors, or going to a wedding.

What is the risk of activities for those who are vaccinated compared to those who are not?

For those who have received their shots, the risk of mingling with unvaccinated individuals poses a low risk. However, the opposite cannot yet be said, and the CDC continues to encourage those who are unvaccinated to wear masks indoors and maintain social distance. The CDC has documented the difference in risk of some activities. The following activities are rated as safe for those who are vaccinated and risky for those who have yet to get their shots:

  • attending a crowded outdoor event (concert, parade, festival) or religious service;

  • going to the movies;

  • dining indoors; and 

  • participating in a high-intensity indoor exercise class. 

Those with vaccines should feel reasonably confident that even if they participate in these activities with unvaccinated people, their risk of infection is low. If one does begin to feel symptoms, they should get tested and self-isolate. However, the data on vaccine efficiency has shown that even those who develop symptoms often suffer from a much more mild case of covid-19.