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Health Report: Vaccinated Fairbanks residents safe to go maskless, minimal risk of transmission

Updated: Jun. 8, 2021 at 3:52 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - With more businesses and facilities in Fairbanks modifying their mask requirements and allowing COVID-19 vaccinated residents to not wear masks, health officials say that, for these vaccinated individuals, not only is the risk of infection low but so is the risk of transmission to others.

According to Dr. Angelique Ramirez, Chief Medical Officer for Foundation Health Partners, while vaccinated individuals are able to go without masks in the majority of situations and present a low risk for infection and transmission, there are still some outlying circumstances where masks are being recommended.

Dr. Ramirez explained, “I think in individual cases we are [still recommending masks], and I think that’s why the guidance is if you’re fully vaccinated, the idea would be if you’re in an environment where you know everyone else is vaccinated and you’re vaccinated, and/or if you’re in an environment where you’re vaccinated and you can maintain distance or it’s outdoors, then it’s very safe. I think we’re transitioning to a phase where people are going to have to make their own decisions as to what’s safe for them. So if you have an elderly parent that you’re concerned about, or if you’re immunocompromised for some reason, then even if you’re fully vaccinated you may still want to wear a mask. So it’s going to vary from individual to individual as to how they approach it.”

There are those who are fully vaccinated and still at risk of catching COVID-19, but the number is incredibly low. Dr. Ramirez continued, “I think the data, and we’ve had this in Alaska as well as nationally, 2% of cases of patients who have been hospitalized nationally, have been found to be fully vaccinated folks. So that’s an incredibly small percentage. The other thing that we know is that in those cases, many of the individuals who are fully vaccinated, [a] very very small percentage, but a lot of them also were individuals who had some reason to think the vaccine may not work. That they had some type of immunocompromising condition to begin with, so actually not a surprise.”

But according to Dr. Ramirez, those who are fully vaccinated pose a next to zero chance of transmission. “In terms of transmission of disease, that’s actually been studied now and what we have found is that in people who have been found to have the infection, who test positive, who have been vaccinated, even when they test them they can’t get a viral load. So the virus burden is incredibly, incredibly low. For a while we were trying to sequence those to see if they were variant or there was something unusual with it, and the reality was there wasn’t enough virus for those tests to be performed. So transmission from someone who’s been vaccinated, I can’t say that it’s never, but it’s really incredibly small.”

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