Whether you've received the COVID-19 vaccine or not, you're probably wondering one thing by now: Is life finally going to return to normal? Vaccines are certainly one of the most important components in our fight against the coronavirus. But we still need to keep wearing face masks for a little while longer, especially in crowded or indoor public spaces.
Receiving the COVID-19 vaccine doesn't mean that we instantly get to return to how life was before the pandemic. In fact, it's just another line of defense until we achieve herd immunity. And until then, coronavirus protection measures like wearing face masks, social distancing, and washing hands frequently are still going to be needed. Don't get us wrong – the vaccines are a huge step in the right direction. But we're not over the finish line yet.
To reach herd immunity, 50 to 80% of the U.S. population must be fully vaccinated. We've made big strides towards this target in recent months. But we'll need to increase both vaccine production and distribution even more to achieve it.
The CDC has stated that people who are completely vaccinated can gather indoors with one another without needing to wear face masks. But when they venture out into public areas, these vaccinated individuals should still wear face masks and practice social distancing. Here are five reasons why you need to keep wearing face masks in these settings.
1. COVID-19 Vaccine Effectiveness Takes Time
You only reach 94 to 95% protection from COVID-19 a full two weeks after your second dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. You do have a partial immune response after the initial dose, but you won't reach 94 to 95% protection instantly after the second one. For the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you also need to wait a full two weeks after your single dose to become completely vaccinated.
2. You're Never 100% Protected from COVID-19
Creating and distributing an effective COVID-19 vaccine so quickly during the pandemic is undoubtedly one of humanity's greatest triumphs in science and medicine. But we must all remember that the vaccines do not offer 100% protection.
There's no way for us to figure out who the 5 or 6% of people are that won't respond to the vaccine correctly. This group is still susceptible to being infected by COVID-19. And if history teaches us anything, it's that COVID-19 will probably still be around for quite a while. Similar to the COVID-19 vaccine, the measles vaccine offers 97% effectiveness after two doses. The measles itself did not get completely eradicated until 2000 – a full 37 years after the vaccine started being distributed.
3. You Can Still Be a Silent Spreader
Health experts have confirmed that the COVID-19 vaccines can prevent illness. But they're not sure if they prevent transmission. This raises concerns that people who are vaccinated can still become infected without any symptoms. This means they could possibly still spread COVID-19 to others who haven't gotten their vaccines yet.
Asymptomatic spreaders have been a primary concern since the pandemic began. Without practicing coronavirus protection protocols, it may be possible for people who are fully vaccinated to still help the virus circulate. So while the vaccine does protect you, it's important that we still take measures to protect others still waiting for their shot.
4. Many of Us Can't Be Vaccinated
Many people suffer from compromised immune systems or chronic health conditions. Unfortunately, they're also more susceptible to developing a severe case of COVID-19. Since this population was not involved in clinical vaccine trials, we do not know if the vaccine provides the same level of protection for them.
Public health experts warn that you should eschew getting the vaccine if you have experienced allergies from any of the ingredients in it. And if you had an allergic reaction to your first vaccine dose, the CDC recommends not getting the second one.
Bottom line? Many people are considered high-risk individuals and can't receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Let's do our part to protect them by social distancing and wearing face masks in public areas where we may come into contact with them.
5. Vaccine Doses Are Still in Short Supply
In the past few months, we've made colossal strides in vaccine production and distribution. But there's still a long way to go before 50 to 80% of the population gets completely vaccinated. Only then is herd immunity possible. U.S. health experts project that reaching this may only occur near the end of 2021.
We're Not Out of the Woods Yet
We all wish that the vaccines meant life would return to normal instantly. But they don't. Still, there is a light at the end of the tunnel – we're definitely on the right track, especially compared to a year ago.
Until things become safer for all of us, we should continue to wear face masks, wash our hands, and social distance, even if we've received full vaccination. Guidelines may change after a certain threshold of people receive their vaccines and new COVID-19 cases and deaths drop. But until the numbers reflect these changes, we must stay vigilant and do what we can to protect each other.
Want durable neck gaiters or face masks that offer antimicrobial and antiviral protection? Check out our shop!