Why get vaccinated against COVID-19 if you still have to wear a mask? It’s better than getting sick, health experts say.

Get a COVID-19 vaccine and you will be advised to keep wearing a mask and stay away from other people. So what is the point?

There is an immediate benefit to the person who receives a vaccine, said Andy Slavitt, senior adviser to the White House on the response to COVID-19.

“People are interested in getting the vaccine,” he told a news conference on Monday, because “they don’t want to get sick and they don’t want to die.”

Receiving two injections of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine reduces a person’s risk of developing symptomatic COVID-19 by about 95%, according to large research trials.

But life will not return to normal for society at large until national infection rates fall further, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, and Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease. Control and Prevention.

Health officials announced an agreement to expand the use of a COVID-19 home test to provide about 8.5 million tests per month in the US.

Although infection and hospitalization rates have plummeted from their peak around January 10, the rates are still too high, Walensky said, remaining above the levels of the previous peak last summer. Approximately 66,000 people are currently infected with COVID-19 every day in the United States.

“There are things, even if you are vaccinated, that you will not be able to do in society, for example, indoor dinners, theaters, (go) places where people congregate,” Fauci said.

It is also possible, although research increasingly suggests that it is unlikely, that vaccinated people can still transmit the virus, even if they themselves do not get sick.

“For that reason, we want to make sure that people continue to wear masks despite being vaccinated,” Fauci said.

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The CDC is still figuring out exactly what is and is not safe for those who are vaccinated.

Walensky said the agency has concluded that “if you have been exposed and fully vaccinated, two doses, you no longer need to self-quarantine after being exposed.”

Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Center for Vaccine Education at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said his behavior has changed since he received his two injections.

“As a vaccinated person, I definitely feel different,” Offit said, “although it could be one of those 1 in 20 who is not protected.”

Offit agrees that it is still not safe for people who have been vaccinated to go out in crowds, because infection rates remain so high.

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It is unclear, he said, what the threshold should be that allows people to lower their guard and masks. But we’ll get there relatively soon, he said.

“I think the numbers are going to get better and better,” Offit said.

Most likely, Offit said, virus levels will now drop during the summer and then rise again as temperatures drop.

The wards where he works are usually full at this time of year with children battling the flu or respiratory syncytial virus, seasonal respiratory viruses, which have come to a near complete halt by masking and distancing.

So maybe, Offit said, we want to wear masks every winter to protect ourselves and our loved ones against all kinds of respiratory viruses.

Contact Karen Weintraub at [email protected]

Patient health and safety coverage in USA TODAY is made possible in part by a grant from the Masimo Foundation for Ethics, Innovation and Competition in Healthcare. The Masimo Foundation does not provide editorial input.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID-19: Why Get Vaccinated and Still Wear a Mask? Experts offer answer.

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