Experts say continue to wear your mask after being vaccinated to protect others

Published: Jan. 21, 2021 at 6:01 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Experts say it is important to wear a mask and maintain social distancing even after being vaccinated against COVID-19.

Hospital officials at Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage say people are coming in without their masks thinking, because they are vaccinated, they can’t spread the virus, but experts say there is not enough evidence to support that.

“We know a whole lot about this vaccine, a remarkable amount that we’ve discovered in just the last nine months, but there’s a lot we don’t know,” says Dr. Benjamin Westley, an infectious disease physician in Anchorage. “So we don’t know after the vaccine, can any virus get on your body anywhere? Can it leave your body if it gets in your nose for example even it’s not making you sick how long does the vaccine last? We also know the vast majority of people you’re going to encounter in their minute to minute life will not yet have had the vaccine or be protected.”

Westley says it could be possible for someone who has been vaccinated to carry the virus and unknowingly give it to someone in a high-risk group who is not vaccinated. And because of how the virus works, you might not know you were part of the spread.

He also says the potential of a more contagious variant of the virus is also a factor in continuing mask-wearing and social distancing.

“It either means we need to vaccinate people even faster than we think we can, or we need to even redouble our efforts at avoiding getting infected because every maneuver we’re taking now will work that much less with a new variant,” says Westley.

He says it may be hard for many to hear that since our rates are down here in Alaska and there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel, but he says now is when people need to be extra aggressive to contain the spread.

“My wife and kids will not be able to be vaccinated for a very long period of time,” says Westley. “If I’m wrong and I get this and take it home to one of them and they get super sick or they die, I will never forgive myself.”

Westley says it doesn’t feel like it can happen soon enough but there will eventually be a safe way to return to normal.

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