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Finally, you’re fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Now what?

Vaccinated and ready to return to normal? It's unfortunately not that easy, as coronavirus variants and new research are forcing leaders to revise rules on what needs to be done to put an end to the pandemic.

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Finally, fully vaccinated: For many people, this means a return to everyday life with fewer restrictions and worries.

But what about masks, social distancing and tests? And can you infect others or even get infected yourself despite being double-jabbed?

German health experts have the answers to these questions and more:

Can I still carry the virus despite getting vaccinated?

The probability of a person getting a positive PCR test result despite being double vaccinated is low, but not zero, says Germany’s institute for disease control, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI).

While it is true that the data show that the viral load is greatly reduced in people who have become infected after having being vaccinated and that virus excretion is shortened, there remains a small residual risk that they may spread infectious viruses.

“As the number of vaccinations increases, so does the number of breakthrough infections,” explains Carsten Watzl, secretary general of the German Society for Immunology. “This is reduced, but depending on the effect the vaccination has had for me and depending on the viral load of those around me, I can still get infected as a vaccinated person.” For older people and those with pre-existing conditions in particular, things can then get dangerous.

So what’s the best thing to do?

Many people, especially younger people, are not yet fully vaccinated and can become seriously ill with Covid-19 or suffer from the long-term effects. This is another reason why vaccinated people should keep their distance when meeting with people who have not been double jabbed, as well as wear a face covering.

In places where a lot of people come together, such as public transport, everyone should still remain cautious, says the German Federal Centre for Health Education.

The German Standing Committee on Vaccination also recommends sticking to the recommended safety precautions, including masks, washing hands and surfaces, social distancing and ventilation. This greatly reduces the risk of transmission.

Currently, however, the more contagious Delta variant is spreading quickly throughout Europe and North America. “When infected with the Delta variant, the viral load is higher,” says Watzl. As a result, the risk of infection also increases when coming into contact with someone who has it.

Should I continue to get tested despite being vaccinated?

If vaccinated and unvaccinated people want to meet privately, for example at a garden party, Watzl advises everyone to get tested beforehand. Whenever vaccinated and non-vaccinated people get together, the risk of infection increases, even for the vaccinated.

“Since it is not always clear who has a pre-existing illness or condition, it’s best if everyone gets tested beforehand.” You can either do a self-test at home or go to a local test centre.

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