With COVID infection rates dropping, and many mask mandates ending, it's reasonable to ask, "how do we continue to protect vulnerable populations from COVID-19?"

Here are the top actions to consider.

1. Vaccines & Boosters

The best way to protect yourself and vulnerable family members from severe COVID-19 is to get vaccinated and boosted. Boosters are especially important for people at increased risk, such as older adults, people with chronic lung diseases and those who are immunocompromised. The chart tells the story—boosters help reduce the risk for severe illness and hospitalization. Being "up to date" on COVID-19 vaccines means you have received all recommended COVID-19 vaccines, including any booster dose(s) when eligible.

Find a COVID-19 vaccine or booster: Search vaccines.gov, text your ZIP code to 438829, or call 1-800-232-0233 to find locations near you.  Learn more at our COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker.

2. High Quality Masks

Wearing a mask in addition to being up to date on vaccinations and boosters is another layer of protection the vulnerable have against COVID-19. No matter the type of mask, it should fit snugly against the face, covering the mouth, nose and chin. If they can be tolerated, N-95 or KN95 medical masks are recommended for the highest level of effectiveness and will provide a layer of protection even if others are maskless. Mask requirements are being lifted in many areas. However, it is still the current CDC guidance for everyone—especially those at-risk for severe illness—to wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas with substantial or high COVID transmission. Check community transmission using CDC's Data Tracker. 

Learn more about masking and other ways to maximize protection on our Preventing COVID-19 page.

3. Testing

COVID-19 testing, when added to vaccination and masking, can help protect vulnerable populations by reducing the spread of COVID-19. Testing is free to anyone in the U.S., even for those without insurance. Find a testing site here. In addition, at-home rapid tests are more readily available now. Rapid tests allow older adults and immunocompromised to socialize more confidently with friends and family who have tested negative. And, getting fast results if you are at increased risk for severe illness can mean quicker access to treatment that may reduce the severity of COVID-19.

Free at-home tests: Every home in the U.S. is eligible for 4 free at-⁠home COVID-⁠19 tests. Get them at: Covidtests.gov or call 1-800-232-0233.

Bottom line: Before visiting a vulnerable individual, take a COVID-19 test to reduce the chances of spreading the virus to them. Learn about testing and what to do if you test positive at our COVID-19 Testing & Diagnosis page.

4. Treatment & Medication

Treatments for COVID-19 are constantly evolving and now there are more options to help prevent COVID-19 from becoming severe if infected . Higher-risk individuals should speak with their doctor as soon as possible once it is confirmed they have COVID-19 to decide the best treatment. Some medications, such as monoclonal antibodies and antivirals, need to be started right away.  

Preventative medication: In December, the FDA granted emergency use authorization to a drug called Evusheld, which is a combination of two monoclonal antibodies used to reduce the risk of developing COVID-19 in people who are immunocompromised. 

Learn more about how COVID-19 is treated at our Treatment & Recovery page.

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