If someone receives the vaccine, can they still be a carrier?
Updated February 24, 2021
What our experts say
Early data on whether the COVID-19 vaccines are able to reduce transmission look positive, but more research is needed to get to a conclusion. A person who is vaccinated for COVID-19 may still be able to transmit the virus.
In a February 2021 pre-print article, scientists looked at transmission among people who received the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine and then subsequently became infected with the virus. The scientists found viral loads — which can indicate contagiousness — to be lower in patients who became infected 12-28 after their first shot. This may hint that the vaccine could lower infectiousness and impact the spread of COVID-19.
Trials of the Moderna vaccine and the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine reported fewer asymptomatic infections in vaccinated people, but more validation is needed. The exact amount of reduction in transmission as a result of vaccination is still unknown. It is also unclear how long the protection lasts.
Additionally, the present vaccines are reported to have about 95% efficacy. This means that about 5% of people might not be protected, despite being vaccinated. Hence, the US C.D.C. and public health professionals advise wearing a mask (though the group now recommends wearing a cloth mask over a surgical mask when not wearing disposable masks or KN95/N95 masks) and maintaining physical distance even after getting vaccinated, in order to protect those that are not vaccinated as yet and to stop further spread in the community.
Context and background
Used with permission by Health Desk, a public health hub that explains emerging COVID-19 science.