CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its guidance. Now, fully vaccinated people can avoid quarantine after a COVID-19 exposure if they meet certain criteria.
According to the CDC, the quarantine exception can happen if the person is fully vaccinated (had both doses in a two-shot vaccine series), had their final dose at least two weeks prior to exposure, but no longer than 3 months prior to exposure, and does not have symptoms.
So, why did this change happen?
Does the guidance change mean researchers have proven you can't spread COVID-19 if you're vaccinated?
No. There's still not enough research to prove the vaccines prevent transmission of the virus. More practical reasons drove the change in guidance.
"A lot of this was related to getting people back to work, getting back to school, eventually, with our school teachers, getting back to their regular day-to-day duties," Dr. Ashley Perrott, a physician executive with Novant Health, said.
Perrott reminds us there is still a high bar to clear to avoid quarantine and vaccinated people should still follow safety protocols like masking, social distancing and avoiding crowds.
"This is not a free card to go out into the world and do whatever we want once we've had two doses of the vaccine," Perrott said.
Alongside its guidance change, the CDC states that "there is currently limited information on how much the vaccines might reduce transmission."
For now, it states "vaccination has been demonstrated to prevent symptomatic COVID-19" in the person vaccinated.
The CDC writes the guidance shift came after weighing benefits and risks and that there is more "individual and societal benefits" to gain by not sidelining essential workers than there is to lose from the "potential but unknown risk of transmission."
Have a relative or friend in another state and want to know when they can get vaccinated? Visit NBC News' Plan Your Vaccine site to find out about each state's vaccine rollout plan.