A physician’s perspective on some of the common questions about the current state of life after the COVID-19 vaccination.
We know the COVID-19 vaccines are effective at preventing people from getting sick. However, because of the contagious variants, the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises mask-wearing — even for people who are fully vaccinated — if you live in a place with “substantial” or “high” COVID-19 transmission.
Craig Robbins, MD, medical director for the Kaiser Permanente Care Management Institute’s Center for Clinical Information Services and Education, answers questions about how to stay safe, even if you’re fully vaccinated.
The current authorized vaccines offer strong protection against new strains of the coronavirus, including the delta variant. Even if you are vaccinated, we strongly encourage you to take routine steps to stay safe. In general, you do not need to wear a mask when outdoors but should consider wearing one in outdoor settings where you are in close contact with people who may not be fully vaccinated. For indoor public spaces, especially in areas of substantial or high transmission, please continue to wear a mask, wash your hands, and practice physical distancing.
Protecting yourself also protects the community and the people around you, especially those at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. These precautions also protect people who can’t get vaccinated, including children under 12 or people with weakened immune systems from things like chemotherapy for cancer.
At this time, additional doses for certain fully vaccinated people are only available to those who are immunocompromised. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is preparing plans to be able to deliver booster shots for others who have been fully vaccinated starting in the fall. Formal guidance from federal and state health agencies on the safety, effectiveness, and appropriate timing of administering booster shots is expected soon and will be needed before booster vaccinations are recommended to the general population.
You can help family members and friends who are 12 and older by encouraging them to get vaccinated as soon as possible. They can get a no-cost COVID-19 vaccination at Kaiser Permanente or any authorized vaccination provider. You can also direct people — both members and nonmembers — to kp.org/covidvaccine or have them call our KP COVID Vaccine InfoLine at 1-855-550-0951, available 24/7 for the latest information and to make an appointment.
You can also help your loved ones by wearing a mask, washing hands regularly, and physically distancing in public indoor and crowded outdoor spaces, and encouraging your loved ones to do the same.
While fully vaccinated people are less likely to transmit COVID-19 to unvaccinated people, it is still possible to spread the virus. Please get tested if you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms even after you are fully vaccinated.