Since the start of the pandemic, masks have been considered a crucial defensive measure against the COVID-19 virus. Mask wearing has been recommended and even mandated in different states as a preventative measure. There are several published studies that support the wearing of masks to reduce the spread of the infection. Now that the COVID-19 vaccine has arrived, there is still a question on everyone’s minds – when will we stop wearing masks?
Approved COVID-19 Vaccines
As of now, two vaccines have been approved and recommended for prevention against COVID-19:
Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine
German company BioNTech collaborated with Pfizer for research and to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, called BNT162b2. The vaccine was tested, and the clinical trials found that it had a success rate of almost 95 percent. The Pfizer vaccine is administered in two shots with a gap of 21 days, and the shots are inoculated in the upper arm muscle.
Vaccination started in the US on the 14th of December. Furthermore, Pfizer has plans to provide up to 50 million dosages by the end of 2020 and about 1.3 billion doses next year.
Moderna’s COVID-19 Vaccine
Moderna Inc’s vaccine was the second to receive approval from FDA for emergency use on December 18th. The vaccine, produced in collaboration with the National Institute of Health, did not have any significant side effects, except for swelling and soreness around the injection spot. This vaccine is administered in two shots, with a gap of one month or 28 days. The shots are injected into the muscle of the upper arm.
During the clinical trials, the Moderna vaccine showed an efficiency of 94.1% in preventing the COVID-19 contagion in people who received two shots and had not been previously infected.
What We Don’t Know
COVID-19 vaccines arrived in a record time, something that has never been seen before. While it can take up to 15 years for a vaccine to get approval, FDA has granted emergency use authorization to the vaccines developed by Moderna and Pfizer in under a year. The COVID-19 vaccine was created with unprecedented swiftness. Before this, the fastest vaccine was the mumps vaccine, which was developed in the 1960s and took four years until it was approved.
As for the efficiency of the vaccines, some may offer better protection than others. It depends on the age or the underlying medical conditions of the person. As per the FDA, they will license vaccines with a minimum of 50% effectiveness. This means that only half of the people who receive that particular vaccine are going to be protected. This is not a great number, and the real range of its efficacy may prove to be lower than that in real-world situations.
What Kind of Protection Will Vaccines Offer?
Additionally, we have no idea what the protection offered by the COVID-19 vaccines is going to look like. Under ideal conditions, a vaccine should offer complete protection from the disease and prevent the risk of transmission as well. There is no way of accurately predicting this until we have more data on the COVID-19 vaccines.
Therefore, it is crucial that we remain cautious until we know more about their effectiveness, as there have been asymptomatic spread cases that resulted in actual infection.
Why Masks and Social Distancing Will Continue
While we are looking forward to getting vaccinated in the near future, there are several reasons why we still have to wear masks even after receiving the vaccine shot.
- It could take several months for everyone to get vaccinated.
- You will not know who has or has not been vaccinated.
- We do not know the vaccines’ effectiveness.
- We do not know the time of protection offered by the vaccines.
- People could get reinfected.
Since we are unsure whether people who receive vaccination could spread the infection, we should continue to wear face masks even after receiving the shot. Face masks are extremely effective at preventing viral pathogens from the transmission. They can keep you and the people around you safe, as they block respiratory droplets leaving the nose and mouth that could spread the virus. Furthermore, the masks protect the wearer from inhaling the airborne infectious agents as well.
Even as the COVID-19 vaccines move towards worldwide distribution, we need to remember that these vaccines are not exactly a miracle cure. This means that we will still have to practice the recommended precautions, like social distancing, face masks, and handwashing. All of us will have to play our part collectively, and NewRain is dedicated to help by supplying PPE to the general public.
It could be a while before we could stop wearing face masks. Until the vaccines start rolling out and we get more information about their effectiveness, we will have to keep the masks on.