What does it mean to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19?

Being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 means a person has received all recommended doses of an authorized COVID-19 vaccine. All COVID-19 vaccines authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are highly effective at protecting people from getting seriously ill, being hospitalized, and even dying from the disease. Getting fully vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.

How many COVID-19 vaccine doses are needed to be fully vaccinated?

The number of doses needed to be fully vaccinated depends on which vaccine you receive:

  • For the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you only need 1 dose to be fully vaccinated.
  • For the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, you need 2 doses to be fully vaccinated.

You should get your second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine 3 weeks (or 21 days) after your first dose. For the Moderna vaccine, you should get your second dose 4 weeks (or 28 days) after your first dose. You are only considered fully vaccinated two weeks after getting your final dose of the vaccine series (either the single dose of Johnson & Johnson or the second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna).

When are you considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19?

You are considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19 two weeks after receiving the final dose of your vaccine series (the second dose for Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, or the single dose for Johnson & Johnson). Your body needs time to build immunity after any vaccination, so you are not fully protected until after this two week period. That is why it is important to continue preventive measures like wearing a mask and social distancing even after getting your vaccine.

Do COVID-19 vaccines provide long-term protection?

We are still learning how long COVID-19 vaccines provide protection. Clinical trials and real world studies have shown that these vaccines offer protection for at least 6 months after being fully vaccinated. Ongoing studies are monitoring vaccinated people over time to determine if and when boosters may be needed in the future.

Do you need a COVID-19 vaccine booster to be considered fully vaccinated?

At this time, COVID-19 boosters are only recommended for certain populations in the U.S. This includes people who are moderately or severely immunocompromised, adults ages 50 years and older, and people ages 18 years and older who live in long-term care settings. So boosters are not required to be considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19 for the general public.

However, recommendations for boosters are evolving as scientists continue monitoring how long vaccine protection lasts. Some people, like older adults and those with underlying medical conditions, may eventually need a booster dose to top off their immunity and stay fully protected over time. Stay tuned for updated recommendations as more data becomes available.

Can you mix and match COVID-19 vaccines from different manufacturers?

Yes, the CDC allows mix and match dosing for booster shots in the U.S. You can get any of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines as a booster dose, regardless of which vaccine you received initially. Clinical trials found mix and match boosters to be safe and effective at raising immunity levels.

However, primary vaccine series should not be mixed – you should get the same vaccine for your first and second doses. The only exception is if your first dose was the J&J vaccine. Recent data found getting an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna) as your second dose provides better protection after J&J. Talk to your doctor about your options if your first dose was J&J.

Do you need to show proof of vaccination status?

Some businesses, workplaces, schools, events, and travel destinations now require proof of vaccination status from patrons and attendees. This is to help protect people by ensuring those sharing the space are less likely to get or spread COVID-19. Be prepared to show your CDC COVID-19 vaccination record card or a digital copy as proof of vaccination where required.

What documents can be used as proof of COVID-19 vaccination?

The following documents are accepted as proof of vaccination:

  • CDC COVID-19 vaccination record card or photo of the card
  • Print out from your state immunization registry listing your COVID-19 vaccinations
  • Verified digital vaccine record such an app with a QR code like VaxYes or Clear’s Health Pass

The document should have your name, vaccine dates, and vaccine type/manufacturer. Some venues may also accept the actual vaccine vial labels if you still have them.

What if you lost your COVID-19 vaccine card?

If you lost or damaged your CDC vaccine card, contact the vaccination provider site where you received your vaccine to get a replacement. They are required to keep records and can print a new card for you. You can also contact your state health department’s immunization registry to get your record. As a last resort, you can talk to your doctor to have them verify and document your vaccine history.

Do fully vaccinated people still need to get tested for COVID-19?

Even if you are fully vaccinated, you should get tested for COVID-19 if you experience symptoms or have a close contact exposure to someone with COVID-19. While rare, it is still possible for fully vaccinated people to get infected, known as a breakthrough case. Getting tested when recommended helps prevent spreading the virus to others.

Your doctor or local health authorities may also recommend getting tested before travel or gatherings as an added precaution, regardless of vaccination status or symptoms.

Do fully vaccinated people need to quarantine after COVID-19 exposure?

Fully vaccinated people do NOT need to quarantine after exposure to someone with COVID-19 if they meet ALL of the following criteria:

  • They have received all recommended COVID-19 vaccine doses (including boosters if eligible)
  • It has been at least 2 weeks since their final dose
  • They remain asymptomatic since the exposure

However, fully vaccinated people who do not meet all criteria should still follow a 5-day quarantine per CDC guidelines. They should watch for symptoms for 10 days following exposure and isolate immediately if symptoms develop.

Do fully vaccinated people still need to wear masks?

Mask recommendations depend on your location and the level of COVID-19 spread in your community. Fully vaccinated people may choose not to wear masks in some situations per CDC guidelines. However, the CDC still recommends wearing a mask if you are immunocompromised or at high risk for severe disease.

Many businesses, workplaces, and local authorities retain mask mandates regardless of vaccination status. Always check the latest requirements for the places you will be visiting.

Can fully vaccinated people still get COVID-19?

Yes, it is possible for fully vaccinated people to still get infected with COVID-19. These rare cases are called breakthrough infections. However, vaccination helps prevent severe illness, hospitalization, and death in the event of infection. Breakthrough cases are often asymptomatic or mild in vaccinated people.

No vaccine is 100% effective at preventing illness. But data shows COVID-19 vaccines authorized in the U.S. are highly effective, especially at protecting against hospitalization and death. Getting vaccinated provides excellent protection even against new variants.

Can fully vaccinated people spread COVID-19 to others?

While infections happen less often in vaccinated people, scientists are still trying to understand how common and easy it is for vaccinated people to spread the virus. Early evidence suggests breakthrough infections in vaccinated people are more likely to cause mild or no symptoms and produce lower viral loads compared to infections in unvaccinated people.

This data indicates fully vaccinated people who get COVID-19 may be less likely to spread it to others. However, more research is needed. To reduce risk, vaccinated people should still follow local guidance on masking and isolation if exposed or symptomatic.

What COVID-19 precautions apply to fully vaccinated people?

Fully vaccinated people can resume most pre-pandemic activities, but should still take some precautions per CDC guidelines. Even if fully vaccinated, you should:

  • Get tested if you have symptoms of COVID-19
  • Isolate for 5-10 days if you test positive for COVID-19
  • Quarantine if you meet criteria after an exposure
  • Wear a mask where required by local regulations
  • Protect those with weakened immune systems
  • Get tested before high risk gatherings and travel

Staying up to date with COVID-19 vaccines and boosters will provide you with the best protection over time. Continue to exercise precaution and follow local public health guidance when going out.

Do fully vaccinated people need to continue physical distancing?

Fully vaccinated people can resume normal activities without physical distancing in most cases, except where required by federal, state, or local regulations. However, consider the level of community transmission when deciding whether to take extra precaution.

Immunocompromised people should talk to their doctor about necessary precautions. When interacting with unvaccinated people from multiple households, distancing may reduce risk.


Being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 means you have received the full recommended vaccine series for maximum protection. While rare breakthrough cases are still possible, studies show vaccines authorized in the U.S. remain highly effective, especially at preventing severe disease and death. Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and others.

Fully vaccinated people can safely resume many normal pre-pandemic activities. However, you should still follow local guidance and take precautions in certain situations, like wearing masks on public transportation. Vaccines are our pathway out of the pandemic – make sure to stay up to date on the latest recommendations for boosters and additional doses.

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