So you received the COVID-19 vaccine and think you can return to life as it was before the pandemic. Think again.
While the COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna appear to do well at preventing serious illness, it’s unclear how well they control the spread of coronavirus. So it’s vital that everyone – those vaccinated and those not vaccinated – continue to follow public health measures, like wearing a mask, watching their distance, and washing their hands.
Vaccination teaches the body how to successfully fight a virus without actually getting sick. This is in contrast to public health measures, which rely on decreasing exposure to the virus.
The Pfizer and Moderna trials tracked only how many vaccinated people became sick with COVID-19. That means it’s possible for some vaccinated people to get infected without developing symptoms and that these people could then silently transmit the virus, especially if they come in close contact with others or stop wearing masks. If vaccinated people are silent spreaders of the virus, they may keep it circulating in their communications, putting unvaccinated people at risk.
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website that address the importance of continuing to following public health measures after being vaccinated:
Q: Do I need to wear a mask and avoid close contact with others if I have received two doses of the vaccine?
A: Yes. While experts learn more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide under real-life conditions, it will be important for everyone to continue using all the tools available to us to help stop this pandemic, like covering your mouth and nose with a mask, washing hands often, and staying at least six feet away from others. Together, COVID-19 vaccination and following CDC’s recommendations for how to protect yourself and others will offer the best protection from getting and spreading COVID-19. Experts need to understand more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide before deciding to change recommendations on steps everyone should take to slow the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. Other factors, including how many people get vaccinated and how the virus is spreading in communities, will also affect this decision.
Q: When can I stop wearing a mask and avoiding close contact with others after I have been vaccinated?
A: There is not enough information currently available to say if or when CDC will stop recommending that people wear masks and avoid close contact with others to help prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. Experts need to understand more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide before making that decision. Other factors, including how many people get vaccinated and how the virus is spreading in communities, will also affect this decision.
Visit the CDC website to view more FAQs about the vaccine. You can also review the FAQs created by the WVU Medicine Pharmacy Team; visit the COVID-19 website on CONNECT and look for the vaccine section.
Watch this video featuring Arif Sarwar, MD, infectious diseases specialist and chair of the WVU Department of Medicine, to learn more about the distinction between the duration of time a person tests positive for COVID-19 versus the timeperiod that person is infectious to others: