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Do I need to wear masks and keep a distance after vaccination against COVID-19

It may sound counterintuitive, but health officials say that even after being vaccinated against COVID-19, you will still need to follow normal pandemic precautions, at least for a while. NPR.

Photo: Shutterstock

This means avoiding crowds, continuing to wear a face shield in public, staying at least 6 feet (about 2 meters) from people outside your home, and washing your hands frequently. The experts explain why all of this must be done after vaccination.

Why You Should Continue to Take Precautions After Vaccination

In the short term, it will take some time for the vaccine to become more effective. (Efficacy is defined as the absence of COVID-19 disease. If 100 vaccinated people are exposed to the virus and 50 of them subsequently develop symptoms, this vaccine is 50% effective.)

For the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine in December found that protection begins only 12 days after the first vaccine and reaches 52% effectiveness after a few weeks. A week after the second vaccination, the efficiency reaches 95%. Moderna reported 51% protection two weeks after the first immunization and 94% two weeks after the second dose.

“It's not 100%,” says Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center and FDA Vaccine Advisory Board member. "This means that one in 20 people who receive this vaccine can get a moderate to severe infection."

So, the number 1 reason to keep taking precautions is to protect yourself.

Can a fully vaccinated person transmit the virus to others?

This is an important question, but scientists studying the effectiveness of vaccines have no answer yet. And for public health experts, this lack of knowledge means you have to act as if the answer is yes.

Here's why: Before approving Moderna and Pfizer's vaccines, the FDA only asked vaccine manufacturers if their vaccines protected against COVID-19. It has not been studied whether vaccines prevent people who have been vaccinated from spreading the virus to others. Emergency FDA approvals for the distribution of the two new vaccines only indicate their ability to keep a vaccinated person free from serious COVID-19 disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "experts need to learn more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide before deciding to change recommendations for steps everyone should take to slow the spread of the virus."

How a vaccinated person can spread the virus

All COVID-19 vaccines and vaccine candidates considered for use in the United States are based on the use of pieces of genetic material or viral protein, and not on any viral elements that can turn into the active SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID disease -19.

The problem is that a recently vaccinated person may already have asymptomatic COVID-19 - then he is able to shed the virus. Wear masks to protect yourself and others from the virus.

Here's how it might work: Let's say you got vaccinated and encountered SARS-CoV-2. You're much less likely to develop symptoms - that's clear. But your immune system may not fight the virus completely - it may allow some viruses to survive and reproduce, and they may come out of your nose or mouth when you breathe out, cough, or sneeze. Remember: no one can yet be sure if this is happening at all and if there is enough active virus released to infect someone else.

On the subject: In the US, health workers massively refuse to be vaccinated against COVID-19

Why FDA Didn't Require Transmission Risk Data Before Approving First Two Vaccines

There is only one answer - time.

“We wanted to get the results fast,” said Dr. Larry Corey, a virologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, who participates in the federal vaccine testing program. "This required as simple an experimental protocol as possible."

Although preliminary studies of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were streamlined as much as possible, they still required quite a lot of work. Each of the 75 volunteers had to come to the clinic, take a coronavirus test, get a vaccine or placebo (not knowing what exactly they were given), return for a second vaccination, re-come to the clinic for testing at any time if they develop any or symptoms of a virus infection.

Adding even more tests to see if vaccinated volunteers have caught the virus and can transmit it would significantly delay results, Corey said. And in the midst of a pandemic, speed was critical.

How do you answer the question: can vaccinated people infect others?

Researchers are currently testing people vaccinated in the Pfizer and Moderna trials for antibodies showing they have been infected and immune to protection. Corey notes that this is not an ideal measure because antibody tests are not always accurate and antibodies can be temporary. Moderna officials have hinted that their vaccine prevents the virus from shedding, but did not elaborate on how effective the protection is. Some people who volunteer to participate in vaccine research will be tested for the virus itself.

If it is found that someone is spreading a virus, the researchers will test if the virus is capable of self-replication: if so, is it enough to infect other people. Finding answers to all these questions is a laborious process. And so far, no one says how soon the results of this kind of research on Pfizer or Moderna vaccines will be available.

There are other ways to find the answer. The COVID-19 Prevention Network has proposed a pilot study that would involve vaccinating more than 20 students with Moderna vaccine, screening them multiple times a week for spread of the virus, and tracing contacts when an infection occurs. The process, which will cost several hundred million dollars, has so far been rejected by federal sponsors.

Other COVID-19 candidate vaccines are in development and will need to be tested. Volunteers who participated in a pilot trial of the AstraZeneca vaccine tested themselves for the virus. The results, published Dec. 8 in The Lancet, suggest that the candidate vaccine may partially, but not fully, protect against virus shedding. In a commentary published the same day in The Lancet, researchers at Johns Hopkins University said the observation offered some hope that the vaccine would stop asymptomatic shedding of the virus, but the evidence collected so far is too small to be conclusive.

Maybe one of the vaccines in development is the best idea?

If it's your turn to get vaccinated, there's no reason to wait. While the vaccines currently being tested differ in design from those of Pfizer and Moderna, scientists say there is no biological reason to believe these vaccines will more or less protect against the spread of the virus.

Is it possible for a vaccinated person to remove the mask in a crowded room if everyone else is also vaccinated

Not yet. Remember that Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are not 100% effective, and many in the research community still advise caution. Once the majority of people are protected and the virus begins to circulate less in the air (and society), guidelines and restrictions may loosen a little. One vision for the new norm, whether later in 2021 or even 2022, is a possible weakening of the guidelines with periodic updates during COVID-19 outbreaks.

You may be interested in: top New York news, stories of our immigrants and helpful tips about life in the Big Apple - read it all on ForumDaily New York

What about a new strain from the UK? Will it spread after vaccination?

The newly identified variant B.1.1.7 has not been studied for a long time. Therefore, it cannot be said with certainty that the new vaccines are effective against it, but scientists are not too worried about this. Laboratory studies show that vaccines protect against this strain.

However, infectious disease experts are concerned that any more contagious strain, which is undoubtedly B.1.1.7, could rapidly increase the number of COVID-19 cases in the world due to its faster spread. In this case, increased masking, distancing, hand washing and crowd avoidance will help stop the spread.

What is the bottom line

Yes, you can continue to take precautions until you have to, even if you get both doses of the vaccine. Dr. Carlos del Rio from Emory University encourages all of us to stick and keep going.

“You won't need to wear a mask for the rest of your life,” he says. - It must be worn until we receive the data. And we are trying to get them as quickly as possible. "

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