Once you’ve been vaccinated, can you throw away your face covering? Experts say not yet.
Heather Eberspacher, MD, University Health Center medical director, shares six reasons to keep wearing one, even after you receive the vaccine:
- The vaccine doesn’t take effect immediately. You won’t receive the full benefit of the vaccine until two weeks after your one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine or two weeks after your second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine. Until then, you have partial immunity. This is good, but it means your risk of contracting COVID-19 is still a concern.
- The vaccine isn’t foolproof. The vaccine is highly effective, but it doesn’t provide 100% protection — no vaccines do. Unfortunately, there’s no way of knowing who will respond to the vaccine and who will be in the small minority who don’t. Also, as variants of the virus continue to increase in number, it remains to be seen if or how they will change the effectiveness of current COVID-19 vaccines. In the meantime, until we have further supporting data on this, masks are still encouraged to protect yourself and others.
- The vaccine isn’t widespread yet. Although the vaccine is being distributed quickly, it will take time to offer everyone the chance to be vaccinated. We don’t yet know what percentage of the population will need to be vaccinated to reach herd immunity. For example, herd immunity against measles requires about 95% of a population to be vaccinated, according to the World Health Organization.
- It protects those who can’t be vaccinated and the immunocompromised. Not everyone can get the vaccine, such as those who are allergic to the vaccine’s ingredients. Some people with compromised immune systems are still waiting to be vaccinated. We know that their risk for developing COVID-19 complications is high, so we want to avoid infecting them at all costs. Face coverings help protect these people until we reach herd immunity.
- You could still contract COVID-19 and be asymptomatic. The vaccine protects you from contracting the virus, but we still don’t know if it protects you from being an asymptomatic spreader. This means there’s a chance you could spread COVID-19 to people who have not yet been vaccinated if you don’t wear a face covering. This could cause the virus to continue spreading and could take us longer to beat the pandemic.
- It’s university policy. The university continues to require everyone to wear face coverings on campus, regardless of their vaccination status. Whenever you’re on campus, make sure you are wearing a face covering appropriately. Click here to read the university’s face covering policy.
Everyone is anxious for life to return to normal, but it’s important to understand that it will take time. Think of ending the pandemic as a dimmer switch instead of an on/off switch. Stopping a pandemic requires using all the tools we have available, and getting vaccinated is one of them. Until a majority of the population is vaccinated and herd immunity increases, continue with your COVID-19 prevention measures.
Bottom line: Keep wearing your face covering. If we all do our part, we will defeat this virus together.