Fully vaccinated people in US can safely gather without masks, CDC says

US health agency reveals its highly anticipated official guidelines as inoculated population grows

Fully vaccinated people in the US can gather without masks, according to new guidelines released on Monday by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr Rochelle Walensky, the head of the agency, revealed the new regulations during the White House Covid-19 Task Force briefing on Monday morning.

She said fully vaccinated people can safely visit each other in private settings without face masks or social distancing measures.

"You can visit your grandparents if you have been vaccinated and they have been too," Dr Walensky said.

Fully vaccinated people are defined as those who have had both doses of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine, or the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

People who have been inoculated should limit attending gatherings for two weeks after their last dose.

Dr Walensky outlined a second scenario that said fully vaccinated people can meet unvaccinated people who are not at high risk for severe Covid-19 symptoms.

People at high risk of severe disease are those who have diabetes, cancer, or who are immunocompromised.

“We believe these new recommendations are an important first step in our efforts to resume everyday activities in our communities,” she said in the briefing.

The guidance was highly anticipated as the vaccinated population is growing by the day. Approximately 17.7 per cent of people in the US have received one or more doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, according to the agency's vaccine tracker.

As of Monday morning, 9.2 per cent of people in the country, or about 30 million people, have been fully vaccinated.

The agency is still urging fully vaccinated people to wear face masks and practise social distancing in medium to large gatherings or in crowded spaces.

However, they do not have to quarantine or test for Covid-19 after they have been exposed if they are asymptomatic, though they should be tested if they experience Covid-19 symptoms.

There is a small chance a fully vaccinated person can still spread the virus to those who have not been immunised, the US health agency said.

Dr Walensky advised against travel as the US is still dealing with high levels of daily infections and there are fears of a smaller fourth surge in cases, especially with the introduction of new, possibly more transmissible variants.

The US has recorded 29 million coronavirus cases and more than 525,000 deaths from Covid-19, both the highest tallies globally.

The Food and Drug Administration has so far approved three vaccines for emergency use in the US: two-dose vaccines by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, and a one-dose vaccine by Johnson & Johnson. The Pfizer and Moderna shots are required to be taken a few weeks apart.

President Joe Biden says there will be enough vaccine supply for all adults in the country as early as the end of May or in early June.

A vaccine tracker by Bloomberg News says the US is inoculating about two million people each day.

There are ongoing conversations about how many people need to be vaccinated in order for the US to reach herd immunity, with scientists estimating about 80 per cent of the adult population will be needed to reach that level.

Dr Walensky stated she will continue to update guidelines as additional research comes out.

“We’re hopeful that our next set of guidance will have more science around what vaccinated people can do, perhaps travel being among them," she said.

Updated: March 9, 2021 07:49 PM

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