Can I still spread the coronavirus after I’m vaccinated?

Medical Assistant Keona Shepard holds up the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine as she prepares to administer it at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center during the mass coronavirus vaccination in New Orleans on Thursday, March 4, 2021. (Chris Granger/The Advocate via AP)

Can I still spread the coronavirus after I’m vaccinated?

It’s possible. Experts say the risk is low, but are still studying how well the shots blunt the spread of the virus.

The current vaccines are highly effective at preventing people from getting seriously sick with COVID-19.

But even if vaccinated people don’t get sick, they might still get infected without showing any symptoms. Experts think the vaccine would also curb the chances of those people spreading the virus.

“A vaccinated person controls the virus better, so the chances of transmitting will be greatly reduced,” said Dr. Robert Gallo a virus expert at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Among the evidence so far: Studies suggesting if people do get infected despite vaccination, they harbor less coronavirus in the nose than the unvaccinated. That makes it harder to spread.

Even though you might be vaccinated, still be cautious

Trying to settle the question, the U.S. is starting a study of college students willing to undergo daily nasal swab testing.

Given the uncertainty and the arrival of more contagious variants, experts say fully vaccinated people should continue to wear masks and social distance in public and when visiting with unvaccinated people at high risk for severe illness if infected.

“We still have to be cautious,” Gallo said. “The vaccine is essential. But it is not a cure-all that ends the epidemic tomorrow.”