Why masks and more still matter

Social Distancing Line

Even after you’re fully vaccinated, it’s best to play it safe and keep masking and social distancing for a while longer

02/22/2021

Once you’ve received your COVID-19 vaccine, you can take off your mask and stop social distancing, right? 

Not quite yet. Health experts are urging that everyone continue taking precautions not to spread the virus, even after they’ve received their shots. 

Why is that? It may take a while before everyone has had a chance to get a vaccine. In the meantime, people are still vulnerable to the virus. And because no vaccine is 100% effective, you may still be at risk, too. 

“When we get a vaccination, we are not immediately immune,” says Regina Mysliwiec, MD, CMH Emergency Department Medical Director. “The vaccine takes weeks to allow our bodies to build up the appropriate level of antibodies so that we can fight off the infection.”

We need to continue using every tool we have to fight the spread of COVID-19.

When can I stop wearing a mask? 

We don’t know enough about the vaccine or the virus yet to predict when it will be safe to stop wearing a mask or social distancing. But at least two things need to happen first: 

  1. A large number of Americans need to get the shot.
  2. We need to be sure the vaccine offers long-term protection.

Once those things happen, we may begin to see herd immunity, which occurs when enough people are protected against a virus that it’s unlikely to spread widely anymore. 

It’s not yet clear how many people will need to be vaccinated before we reach herd immunity. But once we do, we should be able to stop wearing masks and socially distancing. Until then, help keep your community safe by masking up, washing your hands and staying six feet from others. 

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Johns Hopkins University

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