Health officials say masks are still necessary after COVID-19 vaccine

A CDC committee voted to recommend the COVID-19 vaccine.
A CDC committee voted to recommend the COVID-19 vaccine.
Updated: Dec. 12, 2020 at 9:38 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine is said to be about 95% effective. But, Alabama health officials said people who get vaccinated still need to wear a mask.

“Persons who receive both doses of vaccine still need to follow the mitigation standards that we remind everyone to follow until such time that we have additional guidance and additional advice that we can do away with those,” said Dr. Karen Landers with the the state health department.

“They are still doing the studies, so you don’t want to roll the dice and say ‘I got the vaccine, so now I can just completely let my guard down,’” said Dr. David Hicks with the Jefferson County Health Department.

Hicks said experts are still studying the vaccine and they don’t know exactly how long it will protect the body from the virus.

“What if the vaccine doesn’t last as long as you think?” Hicks asked. “Your immune system may be a little different than another persons.”

UAB pediatrician, Dr. David Kimberlin, said just because there are unknowns about the vaccine, it doesn’t mean people shouldn’t get it.

“We don’t have to know how long the benefit is in order to know we want that benefit now,” Kimberlin said.

Landers said the vaccine isn’t fully effective until you get both doses, almost one month apart.

“Everyone is tired of it, but it’s not the time to relax our standards,” Landers said. “It is not the time to abandon our actions.”

Hicks said masks are necessary until we learn more about the vaccine’s impact on others.

“Vaccines are going to try and help protect you,” Hicks said. “One thing we are still trying to figure out is does it stop you from passing it to the next person. You could get protected yourself and could possibly have it in your body or be exposed to it, and then pass it to someone else.”

Dr. Hicks said once we reach heard immunity then precautions will begin to ease up.

“We need to get 70% of everybody in Jefferson county vaccinated before we can really get confident and comfortable to say ‘ok, we can ease off certain things,’” Hicks said. “That doesn’t mean we are going to be in lockdown mode. If we want to stamp out this pandemic, we have to get vaccinated, and still do our social distancing, and wear our masks until we know we have breathing room.”

Dr. Landers is still predicting it will be spring to summer of next year before the vaccine is widely available.

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