Staying Masks Up, Even With a Vaccine

By Elodie Nonguierma, MPh,  Health Education Coordinator, Center for Health Equity Engagement Education and Research

The year 2020 has proven to be, hard and full of turmoil. As we know, 2020 started off like any other year only to turn into our worst nightmare; first an unknown respiratory virus wreaking havoc on the world, in some places more than others, but especially in the USA where COVID-19 was mismanaged for a variety of reasons. In May, the world was once again shaken by witnessing another African American murdered at the hands of law enforcement. Though we were in the middle of a pandemic, no one could have foreseen the crowds of protestors that poured into each major city to support the movement against injustice.   Not all of 2020 was bad. Scientists worked hard to develop the COVID-19 vaccines which began to give the world hope for the future. This has led to some ask the question, “Why do I need to keep a mask on if I’ve been vaccinated for coronavirus?”

So far, there are two types of COVID-19 vaccines that have been approved for distribution. According to the published records, the Pfizer/ BioNTech vaccine is 95% effective in preventing COVID-19 while the Moderna vaccine is 94% effective. According to Dr. Margolius, an internal medicine physician at MetroHealth Medical Center, the effect of the vaccines starts two to four weeks after the individual has received the vaccine and during that interval an immunized person could contract the virus. For that reason, people should always remain vigilant, keep wearing their masks, practice social distancing, and continue to wash hands thoroughly.  You must be wondering why I am even mentioning this right!?

Hang onto your face masks, even after you’ve been vaccinated for COVID-19, health experts say. Joshua Gunter,

As we know, when the vaccines were first rolled out, they were only made available to healthcare workers, then the population at higher risk of exposure, and then finally the general population. For now, no one is mandated to get the vaccine and, as you can imagine, there are mixed feelings around this topic. Upon receiving the email that the vaccine was available to us, many healthcare workers jumped at the opportunity. While many others, for various reasons, chose not to receive the vaccine.    As a healthcare worker, I truly believe that our only way out of this pandemic is through a vaccine and the more people who get vaccinated the sooner we could put COVID-19 in our rear-view mirror. I also put myself into the shoes of someone who has no healthcare background to try to understand their apprehension around receiving the vaccine. Many individuals are apprehensive due to not knowing the contents and long-lasting side effects of the vaccine, which is totally understandable. It is scary and I get it but let me ask you this, “What is the alternative?” We see what this virus is doing to the world in less than a year, even with all the necessary safety recommendations put in place. We have heard and/or may have seen people who did everything (social distancing, mask wearing, and hand washing) and still caught the virus. Wouldn’t you want to take an extra step to lessen the impact of the virus, in your body? I choose to believe in the great scientists who worked tirelessly and non-stop to get us vaccines. I believe that the side effects will not be severe or long lasting.

To all the individuals who have received the vaccine, please remember that you are only immune two to four weeks after it is administered.  It is still too early to know for sure how long immunity will last. In the meantime, we should all remain vigilant and continue to adhere to the CDC recommendations and guidelines.