Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is an important step toward getting back to normal, but there are some things about life after vaccination that may seem like an adjustment to some people after months of taking precautions. One in particular can be puzzling: Why do you still need to wear a mask if you’ve been vaccinated?
Experts say the answer is a bit more complicated than most people think. This is what you need to know.
What does it mean to be fully vaccinated again?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that you are considered fully vaccinated when you meet one of the following requirements:
It has been two weeks since your second injection in a two-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or
It has been two weeks after receiving a single dose vaccine, such as the Johnson & Johnson vaccine
If you do not meet one of those requirements, you are not yet considered fully vaccinated.
What has the CDC said about wearing a mask when‘Are you fully vaccinated?
This is where things get a bit tricky. The CDC says you should still take COVID-19 precautions, such as wearing a mask in the following situations:
When you meet with unvaccinated people from more than one other household
When you visit an unvaccinated person who is at increased risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19, or who lives with a person who is at increased risk.
When you travel
However, the CDC says that no you need to wear a mask in the following situations:
When you are around other fully vaccinated people
When you are around unvaccinated people from another household who are considered to be at low risk for serious complications from COVID-19
Video: CDC Director Advocates Continued Wearing of Masks
So why do you still need to wear a mask?
Experts say that a few different things are happening. “Vaccinated people could still transmit the virus,” Dr. Richard Watkins, infectious disease physician and professor of internal medicine at Northeast Ohio Medical University, tells Yahoo Life.
In mid-March, Pfizer announced that its vaccine is 94 percent effective in preventing asymptomatic transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. “Although the risk is low, it is not zero,” notes Watkins.
There are also COVID-19 variants that can decrease the effectiveness of vaccines to some degree, infectious disease expert Dr. Amesh A. Adalja, principal investigator at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Safety, tells Yahoo Life. . In other words, the variants can increase the chances that you will get sick if you are exposed to the virus. However, says Adalja, “there is more and more compelling evidence against that.”
Vaccines are not perfect either, Adalja points out. The Pfizer vaccine is 95% effective, the Moderna vaccine is 94.1% effective, and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is 66.3% effective in preventing infection, and until more people get vaccinated and the virus circulate less, the risk of contracting the virus will continue to exist.
But it is also difficult, from a law enforcement point of view, to say that some people can wear masks while others cannot. “You can’t expect someone at, say, McDonald’s to say who is vaccinated and who is not, to enforce mask use,” says Adalja. “It’s not something you can operationalize in a way that makes sense. It’s impossible to tell who is vaccinated by looking at someone.”
It’s not entirely clear when it will be considered correct for people who are fully vaccinated to stop wearing masks, but experts say a larger portion of the population will need to be vaccinated. “These recommendations will be lifted once we cross some threshold,” says Adalja.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN in early March that the US should not ease COVID-19 restrictions until the number of new coronavirus cases falls below. than 10,000 per day, and “maybe even considerably less than that.” The seven-day moving average of new COVID-19 cases in the US as of April 3 was 64,001 new cases per day, according to CDC data.
If the US reaches fewer than 10,000 COVID-19 cases a day, “we will go backwards,” Fauci said in early March, adding: “We now have about 2 million vaccines a day. That means every day it passes Every week that passes, there are more and more people protected. ” On Saturday, the US reached a new record for delivering more than 4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine in one day.
Ultimately, Adalja says, the mask recommendations “will likely disappear once a significant amount of the population is vaccinated.”
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