While it may seem tempting to think there’s no need to be wearing a mask because you’ve now been vaccinated against COVID-19, there are still a number of reasons that you should STILL be wearing one. Medical experts anticipate social distancing and mask-wearing to be the norm until the population achieves herd immunity, a number which typically ranges from 50% to 90% depending on the nature of the illness. In COVID-19’s case, that number is likely to be closer to the 90% end of the range.
So it’s safe to say we have a way to go.
As for those reasons to keep wearing a mask, consider the following:
No vaccine is 100% effective. While the available COVID-19 vaccines are reported to have a high success rate (up to 95%), it still leaves a portion of the population unaffected. Also worth noting is vaccines are tested in labs in ideal conditions, which are not the case in the real world.
Vaccines don’t provide immediate protection. Your body’s immune system still has to build an antibody response to the virus, which is typically about 2 weeks. This does not account for the fact that the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require two doses, approximately 3 to 4 weeks apart. This means you won’t be fully protected until 5 to 6 weeks from receiving your dose.
Vaccines may not stop you from spreading the virus. There are vaccines (such as measles) that prevent you from causing infection and getting sick, while there are others (including the flu and COVID-viruses) that stop you from getting sick but not getting infected or transmitting the virus. Researchers are still determining the real-world effectiveness of the vaccine.
Masks protect people with weak immune systems. Some individuals, like those with cancer or immunocompromising illnesses, may not be able to get vaccinated. Some may have allergic reactions to vaccination. Some may not be able to produce antibodies that help combat illnesses despite getting a vaccine.
Masks still protect against all virus strains, even those that have mutated. Some mutations have been described as 50% more contagious, and continued public health measures such as masks are necessarily preventative.
No single form of treating or preventing an illness is effective. It’s often a combination of efforts and methods that work best. So remember to wear your mask!