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Why You Should Still Wear A Mask And Avoid Crowds After Getting The COVID-19 Vaccine

It may seem counterintuitive, but health officials say that even after you get vaccinated against COVID-19, you still need to practice the usual pandemic precautions, at least for a while. That means steering clear of crowds, continuing to wear a good mask in public, maintaining 6 feet or more of distance from people outside your household and frequently washing your hands. We talked to infectious disease specialists to get a better understanding of why.

Why do I have to continue with precautions after I’ve been vaccinated?

In the short run, it will take some time for the vaccine’s effectiveness to build up. (Effectiveness is defined as not getting sick with COVID-19. If 100 vaccinated people are exposed to a virus and 50 of them subsequently develop symptoms, that vaccine is 50% effective.)

With the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine in December found that protection doesn’t start until 12 days after the first shot and that it reaches 52% effectiveness a few weeks later. A week after the second vaccination, the effectiveness rate hits 95%. In its application for authorization, Moderna reported a protection rate of 51% two weeks after the first immunization and 94% two weeks after the second dose.

So, reason No. 1 to continue with precautions is to protect yourself.

Can I spread the virus to others even if I’m fully vaccinated?

This is an important question, but scientists studying the shots’ effectiveness don’t have an answer yet. And for public health experts, that lack of knowledge means you should act like the answer is yes.

How can you spread a virus if you’ve been vaccinated?

All the COVID-19 vaccines and vaccine candidates under consideration for use in the U.S. rely on bits of genetic material or virus protein — not anything that could grow into an active SARS-CoV-2 virus, the virus that causes the disease COVID-19.

The concern instead with the COVID-19 vaccine is about whether you might still have an asymptomatic infection despite immunization — without symptoms, but able to shed virus.

Now that I’m vaccinated, can I take my mask off in a crowded room if everyone else has also been vaccinated?

You might think you’re home free in that case, but not yet. Remember that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are not 100% effective, and many in the research community still advise caution. Once most people are protected and there’s less virus circulating in the air — and less circulating in the community — the advice and restrictions on this may ease up a bit.

So what’s the bottom line?

With cases and deaths surging throughout the U.S., the people who are treating COVID-19 patients really want you to continue to wear a mask, keep your distance and wash your hands, even if you’ve been vaccinated, until the research on shedding has yielded some answers. Dr. Carlos del Rio of Emory University says he knows taking precautions can be taxing, but he urges us all to hang on and keep it up.

Excerpted from “Why You Should Still Wear A Mask And Avoid Crowds After Getting The COVID-19 Vaccine” on NPR. Read the full article online.

Source: NPR | Why You Should Still Wear A Mask And Avoid Crowds After Getting The COVID-19 Vaccine, https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2021/01/12/956051995/why-you-should-still-wear-a-mask-and-avoid-crowds-after-getting-the-covid-19-vac | © 2021 npr

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