No COVID-19 Quarantine for Most of the Fully Vaccinated, Including Healthcare Staff

Now that drugstores are actually receiving COVID-19 vaccine supply, having to shut down a vaccination program because a staff member was exposed to COVID-19 would be a pharmacist’s worst nightmare. New CDC guidance makes that far less likely if healthcare personnel giving the shots all have been fully vaccinated themselves. Here is more information.

ATLANTA – If they meet certain criteria, U.S. residents who have been fully vaccinated don’t need to quarantine if they meet certain criteria, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Pharmacists will be interested to know that those rules also apply to fully vaccinated healthcare personnel with higher-risk exposures, which will increase with massive vaccination programs. The CDC suggests that could help alleviate staffing shortages, adding, “Of note, exposed healthcare personnel would not be required to quarantine outside of work.”

  • Are fully vaccinated (i.e., ≥2 weeks following receipt of the second dose in a 2-dose series, or ≥2 weeks following receipt of one dose of a single-dose vaccine);
  • Are within 3 months following receipt of the last dose in the series;
  • Have remained asymptomatic since the current COVID-19 exposure.

Anyone who fails to meet all three of the above criteria should continue to follow current quarantine guidance after exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. That includes staying home for 14 days after the last contact with a person who has COVID-19.

Based on the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommendations for the use of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for the prevention of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the United States, inpatients and residents in healthcare settings are still required to quarantine despite vaccination status. “This exception is due to the unknown vaccine effectiveness in this population, the higher risk of severe disease and death, and challenges with social distancing in healthcare settings,” the guidelines explain. “Although not preferred, healthcare facilities could consider waiving quarantine for vaccinated patients and residents as a strategy to mitigate critical issues (e.g., lack of space, staff, or PPE to safely care for exposed patients or residents) when other options are unsuccessful or unavailable. These decisions could be made in consultation with public health officials and infection control experts.”

Public health officials point out that they are trying to produce coherent guidance even though they don’t know how much the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines might reduce transmission and how long protection might last. Data is available, however, that the vaccines have demonstrated high efficacy at preventing severe and symptomatic COVID-19.

That’s why the CDC says people who have been vaccinated should continue to follow current guidance to protect themselves and others, including wearing a mask, staying at least 6 feet away from others, avoiding crowds, avoiding poorly ventilated spaces, covering coughs and sneezes, washing hands often, following federal travel guidance and abiding by any applicable workplace or school guidance, including that related to personal protective equipment use or SARS-CoV-2 testing.

“Although the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission from vaccinated persons to others is still uncertain, vaccination has been demonstrated to prevent symptomatic COVID-19; symptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission is thought to have a greater role in transmission than purely asymptomatic transmission,” according to the updated guidance. “Additionally, individual and societal benefits of avoiding unnecessary quarantine may outweigh the potential but unknown risk of transmission and facilitate the direction of public health resources to persons at highest risk for transmitting SARS-CoV-2 to others. This recommendation to waive quarantine for people with vaccine-derived immunity aligns with quarantine recommendations for those with natural immunity, which eases implementation.”

Even though fully vaccinated people aren’t being asked to quarantine, they still are being urged to watch for symptoms of COVID-19 for 14 days following an exposure. If symptoms occur, they should be clinically evaluated for COVID-19, including SARS-CoV-2 testing, if indicated.

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