What Can I Do Once I'm Fully Vaccinated?

Medically Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, MS, DO on October 25, 2022
7 min read

If you’re fully vaccinated and up to date on your COVID-19 shots, you’re much less likely to catch the virus, get severely sick from it, or spread it to other people. That means you can start doing some of the things you might have been avoiding to keep yourself and others safe.

But what does it mean to be up to date on your shots? Do you still need to wear a mask and stay socially distanced? Also, what steps can you take to stay safe with more contagious versions of the virus, like the Omicron variant, going around? Here’s what you need to know.

You are considered up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines once you have completed your primary series and got the most recent booster recommended for you by the CDC.

Health experts have a preference for the type of vaccine that you choose. They recommend that, for the primary series, you choose a vaccine made with mRNA (like the ones from Pfizer and Moderna)  or Novavax’s protein-based vaccine rather than the J&J vaccine, which is made differently. The recommendation is endorsed by the CDC and comes from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which reviewed the latest evidence on the effectiveness, safety, and rare side effects of the available vaccines.

But if you can’t get an mRNA vaccine or you don’t want to, the J&J vaccine is an option. Receiving any COVID-19 vaccine is better than being unvaccinated, experts say.

Even after you’re fully vaccinated, it’s important to talk to your doctor if you have a weakened immune system because of a health condition or a medication you take. These things can keep you from getting the full protection from the vaccine, so your doctor might recommend that you continue certain safety measures. 

Being up to date on your shots means you’ve gotten all your recommended COVID-19 vaccines, including any booster doses when you’re eligible for them.

Experts say they prefer you get a bivalent mRNA vaccine for your booster dose for your booster doses in most situations. But you can consider getting a J&J booster if you had a severe reaction to an mRNA vaccine, if mRNA vaccines aren’t available where you live. 

In general, here’s who can get boosted and when:

If you are 5 years of age or older, you should receive one updated (bivalent) booster if it has been at least 2 months since your last COVID-19 vaccine dose, whether that was your final primary series dose, or an original (monovalent) booster. Even if you got one or more of the original (monovalent) boosters you should get an updated (bivalent) booster.


Once you’re fully vaccinated and up to date on your COVID-19 boosters, experts say, you can safely start doing certain things outside without a mask, like:

  • Walk, run, or bicycle
  • Go to small get-togethers with fully vaccinated or unvaccinated people
  • Have a meal at an open-air restaurant with friends from several households

But you still may want to wear a mask if the COVID Community risk is high and you are going to a large crowded event like a concert or sporting event

Some masks offer more protection than others. Well-fitting disposable surgical masks and KN95 respirators offer good protection.

Whichever type you choose, make sure it fits your face snugly without any gaps along the edges or around your nose. It should also be comfortable enough to keep it on for as long as you need to.

When the COVID-19 Community Level is Medium or High and you have risk factors for getting very sick, wear a high-quality mask or respirator like an N-95 when in public indoor places. 

If you have a close contact who is at high risk for getting very sick, you can self-test before being around them and you can wear a high-quality mask if you will be around them indoors.

Whether the virus is spreading just a little or a lot in your area, it’s extra important to wear a mask indoors if:

  • You have a weakened immune system. If you are up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines, to maximize protection and prevent possibly spreading COVID-19 to others, wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of Medium or High COVID-19 Community level.
  • You’re at higher risk for severe disease from COVID-19 due to an underlying health condition or because you’re over 65 years old.
  • You live with someone who has a weakened immune system, has higher odds of getting severe disease, or hasn’t gotten vaccinated.

When you’re fully vaccinated and up to date on your COVID-19 shots, you can go maskless for small get-togethers with fully vaccinated people.

But even if you’re up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines, to protect yourself as much as possible and keep from spreading the virus, wear a mask indoors in public if your area has a high number of COVID-19 cases.

You may feel more comfortable wearing a mask when you::

  • Go inside public buildings like malls, grocery stores, and hospitals
  • Get together indoors with unvaccinated people (including children) from more than one household
  • Meet indoors with someone who lives with an unvaccinated person at higher risk of severe illness

And it’s safer to avoid large indoor gatherings.

It depends on where you’re going. Once you’re fully vaccinated and up to date on your COVID boosters, you can travel within the United States and most places overseas. You don’t need to get tested for COVID-19 before or after your trip unless the place you’re traveling to requires it. You don’t need to quarantine when you get back, either.

You should still take some safety measures while traveling:

  • Wear a mask.
  • When possible, stay 6 feet away from others and avoid crowds.
  • Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer.

If you plan to travel outside the U.S., find out how much the virus is spreading there. You can check the CDC’s COVID-19 Travel Recommendations by Destination page to learn more. Ask your airline whether you’ll need to bring any vaccination documents. Also look into whether your destination has travel restrictions like testing or quarantine requirements or stay-at-home orders.

You won’t need to get a COVID-19 test before you leave the U.S. unless it’s required at your destination. But the CDC recommends that you get tested 3 to 5 days after you come home.

If you’re living abroad, are fully vaccinated, and want to fly to the U.S., the CDC no longer requires a COVID-19 test no more than 1 day before your flight to the States. All non-U.S. citizen, non-U.S. immigrants traveling to the United States by air are required to show proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 with limited exceptions.

Being fully vaccinated and up to date on your shots significantly lowers your chances of catching the virus. But experts still recommend watching for symptoms like:

If you’re up to date on your COVID-19 vaccines and you visited in person with someone who has the virus, you don’t need to stay at home (quarantine) unless you get symptoms. But even if you don’t have symptoms, you should still get tested for COVID-19 at least 5 days after you last had close contact with the infected person.

Watch for symptoms until 10 days after the close contact. If you start getting any symptoms, isolate yourself at home right away and get tested for COVID-19. Stay home until you receive your test results, wear a well-fitted mask around everyone in your home, and keep your distance from them as best as possible.

Take some safety measures until 10 days after you were exposed to COVID-19. Keep wearing a mask anytime you’re around others in your home or public. Don’t go to any place where you’re not able to mask up. Avoid travel, and stay away from people who are at high risk of catching or getting sick from COVID-19.

If your test result says you have the virus while you’re in quarantine or isolating, stay home for at least 5 days. Keep isolating yourself from others in your home and wearing a mask if you must be around them.

If you tested positive for COVID-19 and had symptoms, you can stop isolating after 5 full days if you’re fever-free for 24 hours (without using any fever-reducing meds) and your symptoms are getting better. If you were severely ill with COVID-19, isolate for at least 10 days and talk to your doctor before you stop isolating. If you tested positive for COVID-19 but didn’t have symptoms, you can stop isolating after at least 5 full days after you got your positive test result.

Take precautions for a full 10 days, though. Wear a mask when you’re around loved ones at home or around other people in public. Don’t go to any place where you’re not able to mask up. Avoid travel, and stay away from people who are at high risk of catching or getting sick from COVID-19.

If you were recently around someone with COVID-19 and you live in a place with lots of other people -- like a correctional facility or a group home -- you should get tested and isolate yourself as much as possible for 14 days after exposure, even if you don’t have symptoms.