CDC Guidance Deems COVID-19 Vaccinated Gatherings as Safe

Though small in scale and still cautious, the new advisory reflects confidence in SARS-CoV-2 mitigation among a more vaccinated population.

Updated March 8, 11 AM EST: The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have released new guidance stating persons past 2 weeks of their final COVID-19 vaccine dose face little risk from unmasked, non-distancing indoor visiting of unvaccinated, low-risk members from a single household.

The guidance also state that fully vaccinated people should be able to freely gather indoors, without need for quarantine or post-exposure testing without COVID-19 symptoms present.

In this update, viewed by many experts as the beginning of a return to societal normalcy via an increasingly vaccinated population, the CDC noted investigative evidence showing fully vaccinated people are indeed less likely to spread SARS-CoV-2 to others.

The health authority wrote that benefits to reducing social isolation "may outweigh the residual risk of fully vaccinated people becoming ill with COVID-19."

The guidance additionally reiterated the risks of safe travel and mass gatherings, regardless of vaccination status—a federal advisory which bucks against recent decisions by state legislators to reopen businesses and attractions at full capacity during a recent decrease in new daily COVID-19 cases.

What the guidance essentially comes to provide is a pathway for the most at-risk COVID-19 patients, who were prioritized first for vaccination, to break isolation in a safe and evidenced fashion.

"We know that people want to get vaccinated so they can get back to doing the things they enjoy with the people they love,” director Rochelle Walensky, MD, said in releasing the guidance.

As of the end of last week, nearly 10% of the US population had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Updated March 3, 3 PM EST: The CDC are expected to release new guidelines this week advising that persons to have become fully vaccinated from COVID-19 can host and attend personal, small gatherings without masks among other fully vaccinated persons.

The guidelines will reiterate the continued need of public masking and social distancing for the entire US population—regardless of vaccination status. Nonetheless, the health authority’s support of fully-vaccinated small gatherings is a reflection of improved SARS-CoV-2 management in a country that is nearing 10% full vaccination status.

“This would be a wonderful change, showing that vaccines have benefits that go beyond just keeping people alive,” Contagion® Editor-in-Chief, Jason Gallagher, PharmD, clinical professor at Temple University College of Pharmacy, said. “ I believe that the uncontrolled pandemic has made public health officials cautious, but guidance should keep up with the evolving science also.”

An exclusive report from Politico this week explained the new guideline may be published as early as Thursday, and will provide advisories on intricate vaccination-status activities including travel.

This is not to indicate a large-scale shift in COVID-19 strategies, however. Leadership, including CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, have stressed the need to keep SARS-CoV-2 spread risks at a minimum while national vaccination distribution and administration is accelerated.

“The goal in those first 100 days has always been to sort of make sure that we are in a place to be out of this pandemic,” Walensky said. “At 70,000 cases per day, we're not in that place right now.”

Earlier this week, President Joseph Biden stated that as a result of new pharmaceutical collaborations on vaccine production, and new deals struck with currently regulated vaccine developers including Janssen, the US is on pace to provide a vaccine for every adult by the end of May.

As of March 2, the US has reported 3 straight days of fewer than 60,000 new COVID-19 cases. In that same time period, the country surpassed 50 million total administered COVID-19 vaccines—and 25 million persons fully vaccinated with either the two-dose mRNA products from Pfizer or Moderna, or the single-shot adenovirus vaccine from Janssen.