Cover Photo: Mladen Antonov/AFP

In this article, we explore what it means to get Covid-19 vaccinated and answer some questions you may have about what’s next

The Covid-19 vaccine is reaching more and more people in Malaysia but as non-frontliners, we still have some ways to go before we receive our Covid-19 vaccination. This has given us ample time to ponder over the questions about the efficacy and safety of the vaccines, and how it will change our lives thereafter–granted, since this is all still very new.

Read more: Malaysia’s Covid-19 Vaccine Programme: MySejahtera Updated With Registration

Does getting vaccinated grant us full immunity? Will it finally allow us to travel freely? Can we exchange virtual hugs for real hugs? Here are some things you can and can’t do after getting your final Covid-19 shot.

Can I stop wearing a mask?

While the Covid-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna seem to be remarkably good at preventing serious illness, there's not enough evidence to show that any of the existing Covid-19 vaccines can completely stop people from being infected. This means vaccinated people can become silent spreaders of the virus and put unvaccinated people at risk.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, once you’re fully vaccinated, you’re free to visit other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing. However, if you’re fully vaccinated and you go to another single household that has unvaccinated people, you can be unmasked but they have to be masked.

See also: Covid-19: How To Wear Your Face Mask Properly And When To Replace It

Our take? Don’t risk it. Mask up anyway, especially when you’re out and about in a mixed crowd or among unvaccinated people, keeping in mind that new strains of the virus also add unknowns.

Does this mean I can skip isolation, quarantine, and testing?

In short, not exactly.

Any fully vaccinated person who experiences symptoms consistent with Covid-19 should isolate themselves from others, be clinically evaluated for Covid-19, and tested for SARS-CoV-2 if necessary. The symptomatic fully vaccinated person should inform their healthcare provider of their vaccination status at the time of presentation to care.

Read more: Where To Get Tested For Covid-19 In Kuala Lumpur & Petaling Jaya

Fully vaccinated people with no Covid-like symptoms don't need to quarantine or be tested following exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed Covid-19, as their risk of infection is low, but they should still monitor for symptoms of Covid-19 for 14 days following exposure.

Will I be able to travel to another country?

While receiving the Covid-19 vaccination lowers risks of infection significantly, it doesn't necessarily mean that you're free to travel–yet. At this time, the CDC is of the opinion that increasing travel would add to the number of Covid-19 cases and pose a risk to the majority of a country's population not yet vaccinated.

"In terms of travel, here's what we know: Every time that there's a surge in travel, we have a surge in cases in this country. We know that many of our variants have emerged from international places, and we know that a travel corridor is a place where people are mixing a lot," CDC director Dr Rochelle Walensky said of the CDC's decision to not endorse travel for vaccinated Americans.

See also: Covid-19: How Digital Health Passports Could Help Us Travel Again

Vaccinated or not, it's best to avoid non-essential travel because it increases the risk of contracting and spreading Covid-19.

Can I freely attend gatherings and socialise with a crowd?

While some restrictions have been relaxed or lifted altogether, it doesn't mean that the Covid-19 pandemic is over.

CDC recommends that all people, regardless of vaccination status, should adhere to current guidance to avoid medium- or large-sized in-person gatherings and to follow any applicable local guidance restricting the size of gatherings. If they choose to participate, fully vaccinated people should continue to adhere to prevention measures that reduce spread, including wearing a well-fitted mask, maintaining physical distance from others, and washing hands frequently.

Read more: Covid-19 Vaccine: Malaysians Abroad On Receiving Their Vaccinations

Remember, vaccines are only one part of the prevention strategy so precautions should still be taken as transmission risks in these settings are higher and likely increases with the number of unvaccinated people present.

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