Let’s continue yesterday’s conversation about the COVID vaccine by tackling one more burning question I’m hearing from a lot of people: Will you have to wear a mask even after you’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19?
The short answer is YES. But let’s take some time today to go over the long answer, too—since this issue really is a matter of life and death.
Because even though the COVID vaccines are proving to be highly effective so far, masks and social distancing are still here to stay for the foreseeable future. Here are five reasons why…
Five reasons why pandemic mandates remain
1.) No vaccine is 100% effective. That’s just the way it is. Large trials show that the current vaccines, when administered properly in two doses, can prevent 95 percent of COVID-19 illnesses. But that still leaves one in 20 people unprotected.
And needless to say, the real world isn’t as predictable as a controlled clinical trial. Efficacy, or vaccine protection rates, isn’t the same as real-life effectiveness. And in the real world, something as simple as vaccine handling could make a profound difference.
These vaccines require careful storage and transportation. And there’s a lot of opportunity for things to go wrong.
2.) Vaccines don’t provide protection right away. As I explained yesterday, it takes about two weeks for your immune system to generate the antibodies it needs to prevent future viral infections from COVID-19. And you can expect to at least double that timeframe, since the COVID vaccines that are currently available both require two doses.
So, if you do the math, you’re looking at about 5 to 6 weeks from the date of your first dose to achieve the fullest protection the shots will provide.
3.) COVID vaccines may not prevent you from spreading the virus. Again, I touched on this yesterday—but allow me to explain in more detail.
Vaccines offer protection on a couple different levels. In some cases, like the measles vaccine, a shot does prevent you from spreading the virus to others. But in most cases, like the flu shot, it will lessen your risk of getting sick… but not from contracting the infection or passing it on to someone else.
We know for a fact that these COVID vaccines prevent illness in most cases. But it’s too soon to say yet whether they offer protection against infection or spread. Which means it’s perfectly possible that vaccinated people could continue to infect others.
And one way to keep that from happening? You guessed it—wear a mask.
4.) Masks protect people with compromised immune systems. This is important because people with compromised immune systems—like cancer patients and people with autoimmune diseases—generally don’t respond as well to vaccines. So that 95 percent efficacy likely won’t apply to this population.
Meanwhile, other people simply can’t be vaccinated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) still advises that anyone with a history of severe allergic reactions to any of the vaccine ingredients avoid getting the shot. And obviously, if you suffer an allergic reaction to the first shot, they advise against getting the second one.
It’s our civic duty to help protect these people, too. Which of course means continuing to wear a mask and social distance.
5.) Masks protect against all strains of the coronavirus. You may have heard reports of more virulent strains of COVID emerging. And the fact is, that’s only natural. Viruses are adept at survival and that requires mutating to less deadly, more contagious forms.
Early studies suggest that the vaccines will likely offer protection against newer strains too. But at the end of the day, there’s no substitute for smart public health measures, like social distancing, crowd control, and mask-wearing. And that’s true for any respiratory virus—whether it’s the flu or COVID-19.
Here’s the bottom line: Our best hope for ending the pandemic isn’t to choose between masks, social distancing, and vaccines… but to combine them. It’s called teamwork—and we owe it to ourselves and our fellow Americans to look out for each other until we’re all safely on the other side of this crisis.
And in the meantime, continue boosting your immune system so that it performs at peak performance against any infection. You can learn all about my top immune health recommendations in my Complete Guide to Year-Round Immunity.
“5 reasons to wear a mask even after you’re vaccinated.” PBS, 01/15/2021. (pbs.org/newshour/health/5-reasons-to-wear-a-mask-even-after-youre-vaccinated)