Michigan radiologic technologist Michele Westrick gets vaccinated at a metro Detroit clinic. Photo courtesy Michele Westrick
Michigan radiologic technologist Michele Westrick gets vaccinated at a metro Detroit clinic.

Do I have to still wear a mask? When will things be normal again? Michiganders have questions, and we have answers.

MT. CLEMENS, Mich.—When 75-year-old Maureen Pickelman got vaccinated in late February, what in her life changed?

Pickelman told The ‘Gander that she was more focused on her role in ending the pandemic than worried about how her day-to-day life would be different after vaccination. 

“That’s the goal, that it’s going to improve lives for everyone,” she said. “It would go a whole lot better for everybody if everybody would just take a positive attitude toward the whole thing and do what they can to help wipe out the virus.”

READ HER STORY: After Barely Surviving Coronavirus, We Caught Up With This Newly Vaccinated Michigander

But there are some things different for her now that the retired teacher has had her vaccination. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will issue guidance in the coming days about small steps toward normalcy vaccinated Michiganders might consider, but we already know the answers to key questions Michiganders like Pickelman might have.

If I’m vaccinated can I still spread the virus?

Yes. Even if you are immune to the coronavirus you might still be a carrier. The vaccine protects you, but wearing a mask and social distancing protect others. Until the vast majority of Michiganders are immunized, experts strongly encourage wearing a mask and social distancing, as well as thorough hand-washing and other basic pandemic protections to keep your community safe until they, too, are vaccinated. 

Do I need to quarantine if I’m vaccinated?

Not if you’re fully vaccinated, meaning you’ve taken all needed doses of the particular brand of vaccine you’re using on time and are immune to the coronavirus. If you’ve been vaccinated, and are exposed to someone carrying the virus, the CDC says you don’t need to quarantine for two weeks as unvaccinated people do. 

How long will this vaccine last?

Because the coronavirus is a novel, or new, virus there’s still a lot of uncharted water in understanding it. It’s possible it will need to be an annual shot like the flu, but it also is possible that a single year’s immunity can keep someone immunized for years. For what it’s worth, the vaccines we have now are effective against multiple known variations of the coronavirus, so there’s a stronger chance of the vaccine lasting longer. 

RELATED: Michigander Explains Why Vaccine Side Effects Are Not Nearly as Bad as Dying From COVID-19

Can I see my family and friends now that I’m vaccinated?

If they are too. Remember, even vaccinated it still is possible to transmit the virus. The vaccine only protects you. But if you have family members and friends who are also protected, there’s no danger in spending quality time together again.

Can I travel if I’m vaccinated?

Travel is a lot safer, but still not without risk. Traveling internationally poses the risk of encountering a version of the coronavirus not found in Michigan that we can’t say for sure is protected against by current vaccines, as new variants are emerging all the time. Further, it might be possible to spread uncommon variants even vaccinated. But, if following proper pandemic protections, travel is far safer for those with immunity. 

SEE ALSO: After 22 Million Doses, CDC Says COVID Vaccines Appear to Be Safe

Can I test positive for coronavirus after I’m vaccinated?

Yes, but it may not mean you actually have coronavirus. While none of the vaccines are perfectly effective, they are more effective than even traditional flu vaccines. If you test positive on an antibody test after being vaccinated, consult your doctor—it could just be a sign the vaccine worked.  

When will everything be normal again?

The pandemic doesn’t end with one person’s vaccination; it ends when so many people are vaccinated that the disease isn’t as severe a threat. But if you mask and socially distance, you can return to parts of normal life, from salons to churches to movie theaters, with relative safety. 

And the good news is, if you’re vaccinated like Pickelman, you’ve already done your part to bringing that far-off return to normal life a little bit closer.