Dr. Jim Suozzi

Dr. Jim Suozzi, EMS medical director at Cheshire Medical Center in Keene, was the first hospital employee to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in December.

As Granite Staters continue to sign up for the COVID-19 vaccine, many may be wondering what safety precautions they can relax after receiving their full dose.

Here’s a rundown, based on guidance from the CDC and other public health experts:

When am I considered fully vaccinated?

People are fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving their final dose. For the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines — administered in two doses, weeks apart — that is after the second dose, while for Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, it’s after the single dose.

Once I’m fully vaccinated, should I get rid of my mask and stop social distancing?

No. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people continue with these safety measures, as well as avoid crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, to protect themselves and others from the viral disease.

Fully vaccinated people can still contract COVID-19, although this is rare. And scientists and health experts aren’t certain that immunization prevents someone from carrying or sharing the virus, even if it prevents them from suffering severe symptoms, according to Dr. Mike Lindberg, who recently retired as chief medical officer at Monadnock Community Hospital in Peterborough.

But the CDC said it does not appear that vaccinated people can carry the virus, based on data from a recent real-world study the agency conducted.

Are there any situations in which I can take off my mask if I’m fully vaccinated?

Yes. The CDC says people who are fully vaccinated can gather indoors with one another without wearing a mask or staying 6 feet apart.

However, people should still avoid medium or large gatherings because it increases a person’s risk of getting or spreading COVID-19, according to Dr. Aalok Khole, an infectious disease physician at Cheshire Medical Center in Keene.

“This should not be considered a free pass. Often times, we assimilate the parts we want to hear and disregard the underlying message of caution,” he said in an email. “... All this will help return to a normal state but in a safe way.”

If I’m fully vaccinated and travel domestically, do I need to quarantine or get tested for COVID-19?

No. The CDC’s guidance says people who’ve been fully vaccinated no longer need to get tested before or after travel and also don’t need to quarantine after travel. New Hampshire has also adopted this guidance.

But Khole said masks, social distancing and proper hand hygiene should continue throughout the trip.

What about for international trips?

As with domestic travel, the CDC says a COVID-19 test isn’t needed before leaving the United States for a trip abroad, and quarantining is not required after returning.

This is also part of New Hampshire’s guidance for its residents and those wishing to travel to the Granite State.

However, a negative test result is still needed before boarding a flight back to the United States, the CDC says. The federal agency also recommends people get a COVID-19 test within three to five days once back in the U.S.

Also, before leaving for the trip, the CDC says people should be closely monitoring their destination’s COVID-19 activity.

And as with domestic travel, masks and other precautionary measures are recommended when traveling internationally.

How do I sign up for the COVID-19 vaccine?

All New Hampshire residents 16 or older are able to schedule a vaccination appointment at vaccines.nh.gov, and, starting April 19, this eligibility will extend to people in the state regardless of their residency. If you don’t have access to the Internet, you can call the state’s hotline at 2-1-1 but expect long wait times.

Monadnock Region residents can get vaccinated on Krif Road in Keene — one of the state’s immunization sites — or at Walgreens, which has local stores in Keene and Walpole.

Olivia Belanger can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1439, or obelanger@keenesentinel.com. Follow her on Twitter @OBelangerKS.