How Much Longer Do We Need To Wear Mask?
For most of us, mask-wearing has become part of daily lives. While many of us look forward to the days we could go back to normalcy and be mask-free, many experts think that mask-wearing will be here to stay for another year even as vaccines has begun to be distributed around the world.
Coronavirus vaccines are not the magic bullet to solve the Covid-19 pandemic crisis, as there is no evidence yet to show whether vaccination prevents people from spreading the virus to those who are not vaccinated. Mask wearing, social distancing and adequate hygiene remain the critical safety measures to prevent covid transmission, as health experts agreed.
“Currently, we do not have enough data to be able to say with confidence that the vaccines can prevent transmission,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, said from in a tweet during an online Q&A session. “So even if vaccinated, you may still be able to spread the virus to vulnerable people.” (source: cnbc)
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mask-wearing is critical to slowing the spread of the coronavirus and helping protect both the wearer and those around them from spreading the virus. Here we laid out 5 reasons why medical experts believe mask-wearing are an important infection prevention tool.
1. Effectiveness of vaccines is not fully understood yet
Vaccines do not provide 100% protection against covid virus. In fact, FDA mandates that the minimum effectiveness for the covid vaccine to be approved is 50%. While the current two vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna have over 90% of effectiveness, the actual real-world results are yet to be seen. Until there are more data presented, there are still risk of getting infected even after vaccination.
2. Vaccine roll-out takes time
Vaccine roll-out will not happen overnight. The supply, logistics, storage and the administration of the vaccines present a challenge to even the most developed countries. Administering vaccines during rough winter weather has caused delay in the US rollout while European countries are still lagging behind. Many developing countries are yet to begin the vaccination programs.
3. Most people are not vaccinated yet
Two doses of vaccines need to be administered over weeks for each person to provide effective protection. Even as vaccination continues to get rolled out, we won’t know which individuals has received full doses of the vaccine. There are also many individuals who remain skeptical of the vaccination program, and they are some individuals with certain medical conditions who are not able to receive vaccines. Until most people in the community have been vaccinated, it is important to continue practicing safety measures to protect yourself and others.
4. Covid-19 virus variants continue to surface
By now, we knew that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that caused the Covid-19, had mutated and continues to mutate. The two recent variants that were identified in the UK and Africa are shown to spread faster, which could explain the higher infection rates in these countries. Though there is encouraging evidence that the current vaccines are effective against the virus variants, however, until most people are vaccinated, virus circulation of any new variants could still put many individuals in danger.
5. We don’t know the duration of the vaccines protection
It will take months or years to fully understand the long-term effectiveness of vaccines. Since the covid vaccines have only been developed in the past months (and many are still under clinical trials), there simply is not enough evidence yet to conclude the protection period the vaccine can provide. Until the medical community has gathered sufficient data to determine the strength and duration of protection, it is too early to disregard mask wearing even when vaccination has been completed. It also means that it is possible for some people to get re-infected with the new variants.
Mask-wearing is likely to stay for another year. Until there is a significant reduction of infection in our communities and until vaccination has covered majority of the population, practicing safety measures will continue. Mask-wearing, social distancing and personal hygiene will remain the main tools to protect ourselves and others around us.
"We may need to wear masks and update the vaccine, hopefully not every year but potentially on a regular basis in order to keep ahead of changes the virus is making," said Dr. Patrick Kachur, a professor at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in New York City.