Should you still wear a surgical mask after receiving the vaccine?

After more than ten months of living in a pandemic where we have to wear face masks in public, it’s beginning to seem like this will be our new normal forever. Most of us are now experts in all the different types of face masks and protective items out there, from surgical masks to N95 masks, to KN95 masks and face shields too.

It’s been a common thing to buy face masks in bulk and wholesale, whether they’re reusable or disposable face masks. But, some models like the 3M N95 mask models in 3M 8511, 3M 8210, and 3M 1860, have been difficult to find for sale even online.

While the vaccine provides hope that this will end soon, people are getting a false sense of security after receiving the vaccine and often think this means they should not be wearing masks anymore. Is this true? Let’s get a doctor’s opinion.

What does this doctor say about wearing a surgical mask after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said that more than 9.5 million doses have been distributed, and over 2 million have been administered to people inside the USA. For a lot of people, this would logically mean that the use of face masks will no longer be necessary, but to be safe, masks will need to be used for a little longer.

Dr. Leana Wen is an emergency physician, as well as a medical analyst for CNN. She did an interview with them answering some of the most frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 vaccine and the need for face masks.

The first thing people seem to be confused about is that, if vaccines prevent people from getting COVID-19, why do they still need to wear a mask after receiving one? According to Dr. Wen, this comes down to the things we don’t know yet about the vaccine.

For example, the Pfizer vaccine has shown effectiveness in preventing both severe cases and symptomatic cases in general. However, the studies have not shown yet their effectiveness in preventing the spread of the virus to other people, even if they don’t develop an asymptomatic or severe case.

Dr. Wen says this is the main reason to continue the use of masks even after receiving the vaccine. Until the effectiveness of the spread of the virus is determined, face masks keep representing our main source of virus control. So, even though the vaccine has already been proven to stop people from getting sick, and even more so, severely ill, which is a great thing, they might still spread the virus, and therefore masks are still needed since they also protect other people. This is, of course, until more information about the vaccine is determined.

Another question she answered is whether or not the need for a face mask will be permanent in our society. To this, she answered that the pandemic won’t last forever, but the need for face masks will have to be maintained for a while now. The expected timeline is dependent on many factors, which will explain right now.

To obtain herd immunity through vaccination, 70% of Americans would have to receive the vaccine. This is the number of Americans that would have to be vaccinated to prevent the virus from being spread inside the country, ending the pandemic.

This percentage equates to about 230 million Americans, and both the Moderna and the Pfizer vaccines are composed of two doses. To produce enough doses for that amount of people will take some time, and after the production of the vaccine, the doses have to be distributed and given the people. This will also take some time, so the timeline when experts have estimated 70% of Americans will be vaccinated is around the late spring and early summer. The use of face masks will not stop being recommended at least before that time.

At the end of her interview, Dr. Wen was asked whether or not she will wear face masks after being vaccinated, to which of course she answered a big ‘yes’. As she explains, the vaccine helps our bodies, specifically our immune system, recognize the virus and eliminate it. But, the most important measure we have to take right now is to prevent the virus from reaching our bodies in the first place. Healthcare workers will be some of the first people to receive the vaccine, and they will still be wearing masks and maintaining a social distance to protect other people.

How surgical masks work with COVID-19

COVID-19 is a respiratory viral infection caused by the SARS-CoV-2, the type of coronavirus that was discovered at the end of 2019. This virus has a very small size, and can be transported through respiratory droplets released by infected people, which can reach other people’s airways and infect them too.

Surgical masks mainly prevent people from releasing these respiratory droplets, which prevents the spread of the virus. However, they can also prevent the droplets from reaching the mouth and nose, although they have a very limited antiviral filtering ability. For virus protection, the best option are N95 respirators, which can also filter out dust and smoke particles, giving them other uses as well.

Surgical masks and other medical-grade masks are currently being reserved for frontline workers. According to the CDC, adults and kids over the age of 2 can wear reusable cloth masks in combination with social distancing for most daily public activities. Cloth masks are some of the most widely available face masks out there, and can be found in a wide variety of sizes and models. 

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