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Health officials say there’s a low level of risk that a vaccinated person will transmit the novel coronavirus to another person. Taiyou Nomachi/Getty Images
  • Health officials say vaccinated people don’t necessarily need to isolate if they are exposed to someone with COVID-19.
  • They say vaccinated people have a low risk of transmitting the novel coronavirus to others, although they should be cautious around unvaccinated people and those with compromised immune systems.
  • They say a vaccinated person should get tested for COVID-19 if they begin to have symptoms of the disease.

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What do you need to do if you’re fully vaccinated against COVID-19 but are exposed to someone who has tested positive for the disease?

Not much, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — unless you begin exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 yourself.

“If you’ve been around someone who has COVID-19, you do not need to stay away from others or get tested unless you have symptoms,” according to the CDC’s official COVID-19 guidance for fully vaccinated individuals.

The guidance also notes that “fully vaccinated people have a reduced risk of transmitting SARS-CoV-2 to unvaccinated people.”

“We have good data that people who are fully vaccinated, even if they test positive, are mostly asymptomatic and are not spreading the disease to people who are unvaccinated,” said Dr. Jennifer Horney, founder and director of the epidemiology program at the University of Delaware. “That was what led CDC to drop the mask mandate for vaccinated individuals to begin with.”

But vaccinated people should still monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19 for 14 days following any exposure, the CDC said.

And if you experience COVID-19 symptoms, you should isolate yourself from other people and get tested for the novel coronavirus, even if you’re fully vaccinated.

Typical symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, breathing difficulties, loss of sense of taste or smell, congestion, and fatigue. Some symptoms of COVID-19 may mimic those of the common cold, particularly among people who have a mild case of the disease.

However, “If you have a fever, that’s not a run-of-the-mill cold,” Horney told Healthline.

“Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status, should receive a viral test immediately,” Dr. Vasileios Margaritis, an epidemiologist at Walden University in Minneapolis, told Healthline.

Margaritis said an initial test should be administered immediately, with a follow-up test taken 5 to 7 days after exposure.

“Knowing your COVID-19 status is important regardless of your vaccination status,” said Horney.

If your COVID-19 test is positive, you should not interact with other people as long as you have symptoms and until at least 10 days have passed since your last positive COVID-19 test, according to the CDC.

“Even if vaccinated individuals do not develop symptoms after an exposure, they may still consider avoiding interacting with immunocompromised individuals and unvaccinated people with higher risk conditions to ensure everyone’s safety,” advised Caroline Gill Rifold, manager of infection prevention and hospital epidemiology at CHA Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Riford noted that the CDC’s COVID-19 advice for vaccinated people is not carved in stone.

“This guidance could change as we learn more about the vaccine coverage and how it relates to COVID-19 variants,” she told Healthline.

In fact, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said last weekend on CNN’s State of the Union that the federal government is considering whether to reimpose a mask mandate on vaccinated Americans to help contain the spread of the delta variant of COVID-19.

The latest mutation of COVID-19 is highly contagious and has led to a number of positive tests among vaccinated people and growing numbers of serious and sometimes fatal cases among unvaccinated people.

Some local governments, such as the city of Los Angeles, also have returned to requiring masks in indoor public places in the face of surging COVID-19 cases.

“While COVID-19 vaccines are the best tool we have in the fight against COVID-19, they do not offer 100 percent protection from the virus,” Riford said. “Certain risk-mitigation strategies may still need to be adopted by fully vaccinated individuals. One of the best protection measures a person can take is to continue wearing a face mask. Face masks make it harder for the virus that causes COVID-19 to spread from person to person.”

Even where masks are not mandated, “fully vaccinated individuals may choose to continue wearing masks in higher-risk settings such as indoors with unvaccinated individuals, outdoors in crowded venues such as sporting events, and when around immunocompromised individuals,” Riford said.