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When to keep masking up after your vaccine

A woman wearing a blue and white face mask. Most of us have been wearing masks for almost a year now. And it's only natural to long for the days when we don't have to think about them.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), if you are fully vaccinated, there are now some times when it may be safe to drop your mask. But it's not yet safe to stop wearing them all the time.

When it's OK not to mask up

You're considered fully vaccinated when it's been at least two weeks since your second dose of a two-dose vaccine—or two weeks after a single-dose vaccine.

At that point, it may be safe to unmask when:

  • You're around other fully vaccinated people indoors.
  • You're around unvaccinated people from a single household who are all at low risk for severe COVID-19.

When you should keep masking up

Even after you've been vaccinated, there are good times to keep masking up. You should mask up when:

  • You're in public.
  • You're around unvaccinated people who are at increased risk for severe COVID-19.
  • You're around unvaccinated people who live with someone at increased risk for severe COVID-19.
  • You're around a mix of unvaccinated people from different households.

Why isn't it safe to stop masking altogether? Here are three reasons to keep in mind:

1. You might still be able to spread the virus. We know that the vaccines are all highly effective at preventing people from getting severely sick with COVID-19. But according to CDC, we don't yet know for sure if they stop vaccinated people from passing the virus to others. Until we do, it's not worth taking chances around people who are vulnerable.

2. Variants are complicating the picture. Some variants of the coronavirus have emerged that may spread more easily. According to CDC, current vaccines may protect against some variants, but may be less effective against others. More research is needed. Vaccine makers are studying potential booster shots to increase the effectiveness of vaccines against these variants. But in the meantime, masks are still a good precaution.

3. We need all the tools in our toolbox. Vaccines are just one way to help stop the spread of the virus. In order to end the pandemic, we need use all the tools we have to protect ourselves and others. That includes continuing to mask up, socially distance and wash your hands when recommended.

Get the most out of your mask

Learn how to improve the fit and filtering power of your mask.

Reviewed 4/26/2021

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