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The First COVID-19 Vaccine Is Here, But Don’t Stop Wearing Face Masks, Social Distancing

Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Author name: Lee Health

The development of the first COVID-19 vaccine marks a historic moment and holds much promise, but it doesn't mean Americans should stop practicing other safety measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

Dr. Stephanie Stovall, Interim Chief Quality and Safety Officer at Lee Health, says people should continue following all pandemic protocols like wearing masks, social distancing and sanitizing hands — even after they’ve received the vaccine — to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“While we wait for the vaccine to become widely available in our community, we ask that residents and visitors continue to practice physical distancing, wear a mask in public and wash their hands often,” Dr. Stovall says. “Until we reach herd immunity and the CDC changes its guidance on wearing PPE (personal protective equipment), Lee Health staff will continue to wear the appropriate level of PPE even after they are vaccinated.”

The first vaccine for COVID-19 is being used under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Many other vaccines are still being developed and tested.

Dr. Stovall answers a few questions about the safety issues behind the first COVID-19 vaccine:

Does the vaccine protect people from getting COVID-19? If so, how come I still have to wear a mask if other people have been vaccinated?

We know the COVID-19 vaccination is about 95 percent effective in reducing the risk of serious disease from COVID-19. But we don’t know for sure how well the vaccine prevents COVID-19 carriers from transmitting the virus.

We still need to know two things: If the vaccine prevents asymptomatic infection and for how long it protects against it. Because of these unknowns, to curb transmission of the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises we keep wearing masks, social distancing, practicing hand hygiene, and shifting activities outdoors.

What about people who can't get the vaccine? Do they need to keep wearing masks?

Everyone needs to keep wearing masks and practicing other COVID-19 safety measures. Some people, such as children, cannot get vaccines because it hasn’t been tested on them yet. There are also people whose medical conditions prohibit vaccine use or will make it less effective for them.

We all need to continue practicing the CDC recommendations to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Doing so protects ourselves and others. Remember, even after we get the vaccine, we can still spread the virus to others. Also, although the vaccine is effective in 95 percent of people who take it, it still doesn’t offer 100 percent protection against disease.

After I get the vaccine, do I have to keep wearing a mask and avoiding close contact with others?

At the moment, we don’t have enough information to say if or when the CDC will stop recommending that people wear masks and avoid close contact with others to help prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. Also, other factors, including how many people get vaccinated and how the virus is spreading in communities, will determine the CDC’s recommendations moving forward.

If I’ve had COVID-19 and recovered, do I still need to get vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine?

COVID-19 vaccination should be offered to you regardless of whether you already had the COVID-19 infection. You shouldn’t be required to have an antibody test before you are vaccinated.

However, anyone currently infected with COVID-19 should wait to get vaccinated until after their illness has resolved and after they have met the criteria to discontinue isolation.

The current evidence suggests that reinfection with the virus that causes COVID-19 is uncommon in the 90 days after initial infection. Therefore, people with a recent infection may delay vaccination until the end of that 90-day period if desired.

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