Doctors say vaccinated people should continue to wear masks

CHI Health infectious disease specialist: "We have to get at least 80% of our population vaccinated before we can take the mask off."

As an increasing number of people get the COVID-19 vaccine, some are wondering if there is a still a need for non-pharmacologic measures like mask wearing and social distancing. For now, health officials say the answer is yes.

“We have to get at least 80% of our population vaccinated before we can take the mask off,” CHI Health infectious disease specialist Dr. Renuga Vivekanandan said.

Doctors say that while clinical trials demonstrated that the COVID-19 vaccine is effective in preventing people from getting sick, there is still more data that needs to be collected before cutting back on non-pharmacologic measures can be advised.

“Some of the crucial pieces of information that we’re still looking for is whether the vaccination will fully protect us from people still acquiring and transmitting the virus in an asymptomatic way,” said Dr. Mark Rupp, medical director of infection control and epidemiology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Dr. Vivekanandan says the vaccine and the use of masks and social distancing are tools designed to help communities achieve herd immunity.

“If we all get vaccinated, we create an imaginary barrier around this virus and we bring it down,” Dr. Vivekanandan said. “The goal needs to be bringing the virus down, so we don’t spread it.

Dr. Rupp cites Isreal as an example of a country that has vaccinated a majority of its population and achieved herd immunity. He’s optimistic that United States can do the same.

“It’s just a matter of a little bit more time, a little bit more effort and I think we’re going to be in a good spot here in another few months,” Dr. Rupp said.

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