As millions of Americans become vaccinated against COVID-19 and the number of reported cases drop, mask mandates are being relaxed or removed entirely.
For many, this is a welcome relief and a light at the end of the tunnel after nearly a year and a half. However, despite advice from the CDC that suggests masks are no longer required in many situations—especially for those who are fully vaccinated—should you continue to wear a mask after getting the vaccine?
The answer depends on your health, the health of those around you, and the situation. Here are a few reasons you may want to keep your mask on hand.
6 Reasons you may want to mask up despite receiving the COVID-19 vaccine
1. If you’re not fully vaccinated.
Depending on the vaccine you receive, you may not be considered “fully” vaccinated for up to two weeks after your final dose.
If you receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you can consider removing your mask after two weeks, when the vaccine is considered most effective. If you receive the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, you must wait two weeks after receiving the second dose to be fully vaccinated.
2. Some organizations and locations still require mask use.
Though more and more stores, organizations, and event centers follow CDC guidelines, which allow fully vaccinated individuals to leave masks at home, other locations still require or highly advise mask use, even if you are fully vaccinated. This is particularly true for hospitals and medical centers, as well as mass transit hubs, like airports.
3. You live with or frequently come in contact with someone unable to receive the vaccine.
Not everyone can receive the vaccine. That’s particularly true for individuals who may be allergic to vaccine components, as well as young children.
Even though vaccines are reported to be highly effective—up to 95% in some cases—some vaccinated individuals can still catch and transmit the virus, especially to those who are unvaccinated. Wearing a mask when engaging with the general public can help reduce the risk to vulnerable populations.
4. You’re in a high-risk situation.
The positive impact of COVID-19 vaccines is undeniable, but that does not mean it’s a fail-safe measure. There are still reports of breakouts and cases and newer strains, like the Delta variant, which is highly contagious and causing concern among health officials. It is also near impossible to know who has or has not received the vaccine.
For those reasons, large crowds, particularly those in close confines, can be cause for concern. Wearing a mask can offer a welcome layer of protection, even if you are vaccinated.
5. You live in or are traveling to a location where COVID-19 cases are surging.
Many parts of the U.S. are experiencing relief as case numbers go down, but this is not true for all states and locations, and it is certainly not true for other parts of the world. If you are on the fence about wearing a mask, you may want to consider looking at COVID case numbers in your area or any area to which you plan to travel.
6. Guidance changes.
Summer is in full swing, and mask mandates have largely loosened across the nation, but that does not mean we are in the clear. The Delta mutation is quickly becoming the dominant strain in many locations, and health officials believe that it is likely to be the case in the United States as well.
The current situation is a reminder - we need to monitor local, state, and federal information and regulations over the next several months, and consider the continuation of wearing masks when in public and social settings if not vaccinated
After several long year of virus concerns, many of us are looking to a brighter future, one that is free of masks and other pandemic-related rules and regulations. However, the pandemic is still a significant health concern, particularly for vulnerable populations.
It is always a good idea to check CDC guidelines to make more educated decisions about your masking habits. If you are still unsure, the scenarios above can give you guidance on when to wear a mask to protect yourself and others when the vaccination is in question.