The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic's global case toll has surpassed 109 million globally. Of these infections, 2.4 million people have already succumbed to the disease. As the pandemic continues to spread, many countries have rolled out vaccinations.
Now, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued updated guidance that people who have been fully vaccinated against the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), can skip quarantining if they are exposed to a SARS-CoV-2 positive individual.
However, the health agency emphasized that the new guidance does not mean the people should stop taking precautions. They just don't need to quarantine.
"Fully vaccinated persons who meet criteria will no longer be required to quarantine following exposure to someone with COVID-19. Additional considerations for patients and residents in healthcare settings are provided," the CDC posted on its website.
The United States has started vaccinating health workers and high-risk individuals with COVID-19 vaccines, particularly the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. Both of these vaccines are lipid-nanoparticle-formulated, nucleoside-modified messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) vaccines encoding the prefusion spike glycoprotein of SARS-CoV-2.
The two vaccines are the only ones that received emergency use authorization in the country. The Pfizer vaccine can be given to people ages 16 and above. Meanwhile, Moderna is intended for people who are 18 years and above. The Pfizer vaccine is provided in two doses three weeks apart, and the Moderna vaccine in two doses 28 days apart.
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No need for quarantine
In the new CDC guidance, the health agency recommends that those fully immunized against COVID-19, having had both shots with at least two weeks have passed since the second shot, can opt-out of quarantine even if they get exposed to SARS-CoV-2.
Vaccinated persons with exposure to a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 may skip quarantine if they meet specific criteria. These include being fully vaccinated, three months following receipt of the last dose of the vaccine, and remaining asymptomatic since being exposed to the virus.
"Persons who do not meet all 3 of the above criteria should continue to follow current quarantine guidance after exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19," the CDC added.
The guidance added that fully vaccinated individuals who do not quarantine should still look out for COVID-19 symptoms for 14 days following the exposure. If they develop symptoms, they should be tested for SARS-CoV-2 infection.
"These quarantine recommendations for vaccinated persons, including the criteria for timing since receipt of the last dose in the vaccination series, will be updated when more data become available and additional COVID-19 vaccines are authorized," the health agency added.
While mRNA vaccines against COVID-19 have exhibited high efficiency at preventing severe COVID-19, there is limited data on how much the vaccines might reduce transmission and how long the protection lasts.
Hence, health experts recommend that vaccinated persons continue to adhere to current infection control measures to protect themselves and others. These include staying at least 6 feet away from others, wearing a mask, washing the hands regularly, avoiding poorly ventilated spaces, and covering sneezes and coughs.
COVID-19 burden on the elderly
The elderly still accounts for the most COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. Even as vaccination efforts have started in the country, deaths among over 85 years old declined from a peak at the end of 2020. However, over 85s have accounted for about a third of all COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic first emerged.
Though older people experience the burden of COVID-19 and have a higher risk of severe illness, a study showed that younger people, between 20 and 49 years old, are the main culprits for SARS-CoV-2 transmission.
They estimated that at least 65 out of 100 SARS-CoV-2 infections come from those from this age group. The researchers recommend interventions like providing transmission-blocking vaccines to stem the spread of the pathogen.