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It's important to wear masks in many places even after getting vaccinated. Here's why

Going mask-free soon after receiving a shot of the COVID-19 vaccine could actually set you back and put loved ones at risk.

It's important to wear masks in many places even after getting vaccinated. Here's why
Cover Image Source: Getty Images/ Dr. Marina Del Rios (L), from the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System receives Chicago's first COVID-19 vaccination on December 15, 2020, in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jose M. Osorio-Pool)

The arrival and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines have been a huge source of relief for all of us after the year of fear, loss, and uncertainty that we went through. However, while the urge to rip off our masks as soon as we receive the long-awaited shots is quite strong, experts recommend that we hold on to them for a little while longer. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, going mask-free right after vaccination could actually set you back and put loved ones at risk. Here's why you should keep masking up in many places even after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine:


1. You're not fully vaccinated until two weeks after your last dose of the vaccine

As per the CDC, people are considered fully vaccinated only "2 weeks after their second dose in a 2-dose series, like the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine, like Johnson & Johnson's Janssen vaccine." That is, ditching your mask before you're fully immunized could leave you with little or no protection against getting infected or infecting others.

2. Those around you might not be vaccinated yet

While vaccines are great at helping protect a fully-vaccinated individual from getting infected, there isn't enough data yet to rule out the possibility that they could still carry the virus and infect others. So unless your loved ones and acquaintances are also fully vaccinated or at low risk of severe COVID-19, it is recommended that you still follow basic prevention steps like wearing a mask, staying at least 6 feet apart from others, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces.



So what can you do without wearing a mask?

As per the new guidelines released by the CDC, fully vaccinated people can:

1. Gather indoors with fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask.

2. Gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household without masks, unless any of those people or anyone they live with has an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

3. Avoid getting tested or quarantining after coming in contact with someone who has COVID-19 as long as you are asymptomatic. However, if you live in a group setting — like a correctional or detention facility or group home — and are near someone who tests positive for COVID-19, you should still stay away from others for 14 days and get tested irrespective of whether you have symptoms.



What are the precautions you still need to take?

Full vaccination doesn't mean you can run wild and forget all safety precautions. Health experts recommend that you still need to:

1. Wear a mask and maintain a 6-feet distance from those who are unvaccinated and at increased risk for severe Covid-19.

2. Wear masks and physically distance while visiting unvaccinated people from multiple households.

3. Avoid medium or large-sized gatherings.

4. Delay domestic and international travel. If you do travel, you'll still need to follow CDC requirements and recommendations.

5. Wash your hands frequently.

6. Monitor yourself for symptoms of COVID-19; especially if you've been around someone who is sick. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, get tested and stay home and away from others.



Wearing masks helps businesses and schools stay open

"People say, 'When is it going to get back to normal and I don't have to wear my mask anymore?'" said CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician. "That's not the right way to think about this. We want our businesses to come back. We want our churches to be open for in-person service and our schools open for in-person learning. We need masks to do that. We are so close to the finish line. If you just hang in there for a bit longer, we'll put an end to this pandemic."

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