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Life after the COVID-19 Vaccine: What are you looking forward to?

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The COVID-10 vaccines are bringing hope of a return to normal. So, what are you most looking forward to? A long-awaited trip? Dinners out with friends? Hugging your grandparents?

Vaccination provides you and your community the best way to move forward. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective at protecting you from getting sick or being hospitalized and certainly give you peace of mind. People who have been fully vaccinated can even start to do some things that they had stopped doing because of the pandemic.

But even when you’ve been fully vaccinated, it won’t mean an immediate return to life as you knew it. And other questions remain. For example, what exactly can you do safely, now that you are immunized? What should you do to safeguard your vaccination card? And what happens if you want to travel internationally? Find answers to these and other questions below, courtesy of BJC and the CDC.

What are the new masking guidelines for fully vaccinated people?

The CDC recently took a major step on easing mask restrictions for fully vaccinated individuals. Americans who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 no longer need to wear a mask except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.

The CDC says fully vaccinated people can safely go without masks at restaurants, shopping centers, salons, and movie theaters, where allowed. Unvaccinated people should continue to wear masks at outdoor gatherings with other unvaccinated people, outdoor restaurants, as well as in indoor settings, such as grocery stores, museums and places of worship. See a list of what's safe for the vaccinated and unvaccinated, according to the CDC.

The CDC guidelines do not override mask orders issued by states, counties or cities. And even fully vaccinated people should continue to wear a mask when flying or using other forms of public transportation, as well as when visiting health care facilities and certain other group settings.

What else can I do once I have been fully vaccinated? The CDC guidelines say:

  • You can resume activities that you did prior to the pandemic
  • You can resume activities without wearing a mask or staying 6 feet apart, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.
  • If you travel within the United States, you do not need to get tested before or after travel or self-quarantine after travel.
  • 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.

The CDC notes that immunocompromised people should consult their health care provider about these recommendations, even if they are fully vaccinated.

How should I keep my COVID-19 vaccination card safe? Can I laminate it?

Mike Lauer, BJC executive director of emergency preparedness, suggests keeping your vaccine card in a safe place, in case you need it in the future. He also recommends taking a picture or making a photocopy of the card, so you’ll have a backup copy. But he says it’s best not to laminate the card, in the event a vaccine booster shot is needed. Although the CDC says the vaccines show good protection and there aren’t current recommendations for booster doses — should that guidance change, you’ll want your card to be updated. And it can’t be updated if it’s laminated.

The vaccine card includes your name, birthdate, vaccine manufacturer and the specific vaccine lot number your dose came from, plus where and when the vaccine was given. Since those are important personal details — and part of your health record — it is recommended that you not share a photograph of your card on social media.

I lost the card I received when I got my vaccine — can I get another

If you received your vaccine through a BJC facility and you have a MyChart account: Go to Health, then Immunizations, where you should see your COVID-19 vaccination information. You can then print out that page for verification of your vaccination.

If you received your vaccine in Missouri: Contact the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services Bureau of Immunizations at 800-219-3224 or 573-751-6124 to request a new vaccination card.

If you received your vaccine in Illinois: Contact your immunization provider directly or the Illinois Department of Public Health at 800-889-3931.

Can Americans travel internationally, once they're fully vaccinated?

For international travel, the CDC recommends that you check the current COVID-19 situation at your destination and make sure you understand and follow all airline and destination requirements related to travel, testing and quarantine — which may differ from U.S. requirements. If you do not follow your destination’s requirements, you may be denied entry and be required to return to the United States.

For fully vaccinated U.S. citizens hoping to travel to Europe, the wait is nearly over. After a yearlong ban on all but essential travel from the U.S. to the European Union, the president of the European Commission recently recommended that American tourists who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 be allowed to visit E.U. countries this summer. The details and timeframe, however, are still being discussed.

While you are traveling:

  • Wear a mask over your nose and mouth. Masks are required on planes, buses, trains and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within or out of the United States and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations.
  • Avoid crowds and stay at least 6 feet from anyone who is not traveling with you.
  • Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer.

Before you arrive in the United States:

  • All air passengers coming to the United States, including U.S. citizens and those fully vaccinated, are required to have a negative COVID-19 test result no more than three days before travel or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in the past three months before they board a flight to the United States.

After travel:

  • Get tested with a viral test 3-5 days after travel.
  • Self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms; isolate and get tested if you develop symptoms.
  • Follow all state and local recommendations or requirements after travel.

While those who are fully vaccinated can look forward to advantages like going maskless in many indoor and outdoor settings this summer, the CDC will continue to update recommendations for both vaccinated and unvaccinated members of the community. Until then, vaccinated people should continue taking steps to protect themselves and others by following recommended hand-washing or hand-sanitizing practices.

For more information, visit www.cdc.gov.

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