Health Report: How will vaccine distribution affect mask wearing policies?

Published: Jan. 19, 2021 at 4:09 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) -With the more and more people being vaccinated against COVID-19, some have asked if vaccine distribution will affect mask wearing policies.

While only those 65 or older and frontline medical personal are currently eligible to receive the vaccine, people wonder if those who do get vaccinated will still have to wear masks.

“Yes, people who get the vaccine at this time still have to wear a mask, and it’s because not enough information is currently available about when the CDC is going to stop recommending wearing masks. The reason is that the vaccine, we know, does help prevent the person who gets the vaccine from having severe COVID disease, but it doesn’t necessarily stop us from spreading the infection. So the mask helps us to prevent spreading it to one another,” said Dr. Mishelle Nace, Pediatric Medical Director for the Tanana Valley Clinic.

Masks are a fundamental first line of defense in fighting the spread of COVID-19. Even if people can’t get sick themselves, it’s possible they could spread the virus to another individual. Dr. Nace continued, “So how COVID is spread is it comes from your nose and your mouth [which is] the highest risk, and so the mask is a physical barrier. It helps protect the person who is wearing the mask from others and from breathing it in or touching their nose or their face, and it also helps protect others if you should have COVID because your mask is a barrier that helps prevent it from going out.”

At some point there may be a loosening on safety policies once the CDC has more information, but until then everyone is asked to continue following social distancing policies.

“It’s our hope that at some point there will be some decrease in some of the mitigation strategies that we’re doing with vaccines. We just don’t know what those might be and when they might be at this time. So now, still, the encouragement is we want people to get their vaccine, we want people to continue to wear their mask, to socially distance, good hand hygiene - and all of those mitigation steps together will help us stop the pandemic,” concluded Dr. Nace.

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