Why get COVID-19 vaccination if you still have to wear a mask? It beats getting sick, health experts say.

Karen Weintraub
 
| USA TODAY

play
Show Caption
Hide Caption

COVID-19: Soothe vaccine side effects like swelling

Soothe COVID-19 vaccine side effects with these tips.

ProblemSolved, USA TODAY

Get a COVID-19 vaccine and you’ll be counseled to keep wearing a mask and keep staying away from other people. So, what’s the point?

There’s an immediate benefit to the individual who gets a vaccine, said Andy Slavitt, White House senior advisor on the COVID-19 response. “People are interested in taking the vaccine,” he said at a Monday news conference, because “they don’t want to be sick and they don’t want to die.”

Getting two shots of either the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine reduces an individual’s risk of developing symptomatic COVID-19 by about 95%, according to large research trials.

But life won’t get back to something like normal for the broader society until national infection rates come down further, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, and Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Even though infection and hospitalization rates have fallen precipitously since their peak around Jan. 10, rates are still too high, Walensky said, remaining above the levels of the previous peak last summer. Roughly 66,000 people are getting infected with COVID-19 every day in the United States.

“There are things, even if you’re vaccinated, that you’re not going to be able to do in society, for example, indoor dining, theaters, (going) places where people congregate,” Fauci said.

It’s also possible, though research increasingly suggests it’s unlikely, that vaccinated people could still transmit the virus, even if they don’t fall ill themselves. “For that reason, we want to make sure that people continue to wear masks despite the fact that they’re vaccinated,” Fauci said.

‘This is our generation’s D-Day’: As US surpasses 500,000 COVID-19 deaths, weary health care workers fight on amid the heartbreak

The CDC is still working out exactly what is safe and what isn’t for those who are vaccinated.

Walensky said the agency has concluded that “if you’ve been exposed and you’ve been fully vaccinated – two doses – there is no longer the need to quarantine after you’ve been exposed.”

Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said his behavior has changed since he got his two shots.

“As a vaccinated person, I definitely feel different,” Offit said, “even though I could be one of those 1 in 20 who isn’t protected.”

Offit agrees that it’s still not safe for people who’ve been vaccinated to go out in crowds, because infection rates remain so high.

The U.S. death toll: In one year, COVID-19 kills enough Americans to fill a city

It’s not clear, he said, what the threshold should be that allows people to let their guards – and masks – down. But we will get there relatively soon, he said.

“I think the numbers are going to get better and better,” Offit said. 

Most likely, Offit said, virus levels will fall now through the summer and then rise again as temperatures fall.

The wards where he works are usually full this time of year with children fighting the flu or respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), seasonal respiratory viruses, which have come to an almost complete halt because of masking and distancing.

So maybe, Offit said, we will want to wear masks every winter to protect ourselves and our loved ones against all sorts of respiratory viruses.

Contact Karen Weintraub at kweintraub@usatoday.com.

Health and patient safety coverage at USA TODAY is made possible in part by a grant from the Masimo Foundation for Ethics, Innovation and Competition in Healthcare. The Masimo Foundation does not provide editorial input.

Source

Leave a Reply