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VERIFY: Keep wearing your mask after getting the COVID-19 vaccine

While the coronavirus vaccine should prevent you from getting sick, health experts don't know yet if it will prevent you from spreading the virus.

With the first COVID-19 vaccines being administered in the U.S., it’s a matter of time before they become more widely available. 

As things stand, there won’t be enough vaccine for the general population until spring, and shots will be rationed in the meantime. 

Maybe you’re under the impression that once you get your shot, you can toss away your mask and breathe easy. But experts say think again.


After I get the COVID-19 vaccine, do I still need to wear a mask?


Yes, says Dr. William Moss, executive director of the International Vaccine Access Center at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Health, and other Johns Hopkins experts. 


First, you won't have the greatest protection against COVID-19 until you get the second dose of the earliest vaccines being given in the U.S. 

The Pfizer vaccine, for example, is considered 95% effective about a week after the second dose -- a time span of about a month in all. 

“Importantly, note that this is protection against COVID-19 disease,” Dr. Moss said.

What we won’t know for months, or even longer, is “whether the vaccines protect against asymptomatic infection and whether they stop virus transmission,” he said.

“The vaccine is not immediately effective. It takes at least 14 days, and maybe more for some people, after vaccination for your system to develop immunity against COVID-19,” said Neysa P. Ernst, a Johns Hopkins nurse manager working in biocontainment. “Even with the vaccine you could contract COVID-19 if you became infected during this immunity building period.”

“So masking protects both the vaccinated and the unvaccinated population,” Ernst said. 

In addition to wearing masks, people need to continue with “other infection prevention precautions (hand hygiene, physical distancing, etc.) after vaccination,” said Lisa Maragakis, senior director of infection prevention at the Johns Hopkins Health System and associate professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. 

Also, she said, “We do not yet have long-term data to show how long immunity lasts after natural infection or immunization. Until we know more and until we achieve much wider vaccination of the general population, everyone should continue to wear masks and follow infection prevention precautions,” Maragakis said.

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