Hugging, double masking, traveling: How soon is too soon after you're fully vaccinated? Experts weigh in

Korin Miller
·5-min read

Many people have spent months waiting to get vaccinated against COVID-19. And after the big moment comes, it's understandable to have questions about what you can and cannot do.

It's important to note that you’re not considered fully vaccinated until at least two weeks have passed since your second shot (if you've had a two-shot series) or vaccination with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. After that — congrats! — you're considered fully vaccinated.

While there is some guidance from the CDC on what is and isn't considered OK to do after you're fully vaccinated, it doesn't cover everything. So, how soon is too soon to do certain everyday things again? Yahoo Life asked experts and got a range of responses. 

How soon is too soon to stop double masking after you're fully vaccinated?

It depends on who you talk to. The CDC still recommends wearing a mask when you're out in public and gathering with unvaccinated people from more than one household, but the agency doesn't specifically address double masking.

Infectious disease expert Dr. Amesh A. Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, tells Yahoo Life that he "never" double masks, even when he’s with patients. "I do not think a person who is fully vaccinated needs to double mask," he says.

But it "depends on how ultra-cautious you would like to be," Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist and professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, tells Yahoo Life. The vaccines offer up to 95 percent protection, and that allows for some small level of risk, he says. "Double masking still provides protection for you," he adds.

Still, Schaffner says you should be just fine to wear one mask. "If you would like to take it down a notch, sure — you can just use one mask," he says.

How soon is too soon to travel after you're fully vaccinated?

The CDC says you're OK to travel, both in the country and internationally — but there are some caveats. "You want to take all the precautions, including wearing masks and doing your best to do social distancing," Dr. Timothy Murphy, senior associate dean for clinical and translational research at the University at Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, tells Yahoo Life.

Schaffner says that air travel is considered "low risk, because everyone will be masked," but he urges people to still be cautious when they get to their destination. "Please, still avoid crowds as much as possible," he says.

How soon is too soon to get your hair done after you're fully vaccinated?

Adalja points out that he has been safely getting his hair cut in a public space during the pandemic, even before he was vaccinated. But if you’ve been nervous about your risk of contracting COVID-19 from going to a salon, he says you should feel comfortable going after you've been vaccinated. 

Just continue to follow precautions, Dr. Richard Watkins, an infectious disease specialist and a professor of internal medicine at the Northeast Ohio Medical University, tells Yahoo Life. "The risk from getting a haircut seems low as long as everyone is wearing a mask," he says. 

How soon is too soon to go to a bar after you're fully vaccinated?

Experts are still a little hesitant about this one, given how much COVID-19 continues to circulate in the country. "By all means, avoid bars," Schaffner says. "They are real superspreader events."

Watkins agrees. "I would definitely avoid bars," he says. "The danger is that you're taking your mask off."

Adalja says it's best to stay masked in crowded spots, like bars. "I would continue to wear a mask in very crowded situations because it’s impossible to know who is vaccinated and who is not," he says.

How soon is too soon to dine indoors after you're fully vaccinated?

This, Murphy says, "is a judgment call," and a lot depends on how the restaurant is handling COVID-19 precautions. "Certainly when the place is paying attention to distancing and if you're masking when you're not at the table, it’s reasonable to say that it's OK to dine indoors," he says. His suggestion: Just mask up when you're not eating.

But Adalja says the risk of contracting COVID-19 from indoor dining as a fully vaccinated person is "very small," especially if restaurants take the proper precautions, like having people well spaced out.

How soon is too soon to hug people after you're fully vaccinated?

It depends. "If you're hugging other people who are vaccinated, go right ahead," Schaffner says. "But with family members who are unvaccinated, I would still do that with some degree of caution." Schaffner recommends giving those people a "quick" hug. Also, keep in mind that unvaccinated people might be a little nervous about hugging for now.

But Adalja says that you shouldn't worry about your personal safety with hugging. "It's completely safe to give hugs if you're fully vaccinated," he says.

Murphy acknowledges that it's frustrating to have some limitations on what you can and can't do, even when you're fully vaccinated. But, he says, that will likely change soon. "This is time-limited," he says. "Hopefully it will be just another month or two until most of the population becomes vaccinated. That's when things are going to open up."

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