After vaccination: Masks for me

by Maya Berhane, Reporter

Last month, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that after a person has been fully vaccinated they are no longer required to don the staple accessory of 2020 and 2021: a mask.

 As more and more of the general populace is getting vaccinated, the CDC is redacting the mask mandate inside enclosed areas and outside for those who have been vaccinated. Before you start rejoicing about the fact that you are free from having to suffer the hot air inside your mask just in time for summer after two simple shots, I ask you to wait and think. 

The first thing that has to be addressed is this: Vaccines don’t guarantee immunity. At its best the commonly used Pfizer Covid vaccine reduces the risk of infection by 95 percent according to the New England Journal of Medicine. Not to mention the long term effects of a Covid infection are currently unknown. Scientists are also unaware of the safety risks for those who are immunocompromised and vaccinated. We don’t know enough about Covid and vaccine effectiveness on all people to abandon mask mandates altogether for those of us who have been vaccinated.

We must also consider that in order for herd immunity (a state in which a large number of the population becomes immune to a disease) to be achieved, scientists estimate that 70-85% of the population needs to be immune. While we are making good progress with 42.3% of the population in the United States currently vaccinated, the threats of new variants still lurk. 

New variants of the coronavirus could cause new infections which could possibly affect even those who have previously contracted Covid and those who have been fully vaccinated. We don’t know enough to know for sure. While the known variants of Covid-19 have shown to be slightly affected by the vaccine, the evolution of the virus is a guarantee. Genetic mutations in a virus can cause a virus to change in a way that makes our antibodies (fighters of diseases in the immune system) unable to recognize the virus as a threat and kill it. 

Furthermore, those who are around you in public also don’t know if you are vaccinated or not, which for people who are more susceptible to the illness and those who have particular anxiety over contracting the disease can be stressful. 

Personally, as I have a lot of friends and family who are at a high risk of contracting Covid-19, I think the CDC’s decision to lift the mask mandate is premature. People are already pushing the boundaries of current safety precautions, so allowing people more room could be harmful. Lifting the mask mandate is not helping anything except pacifying inconvenienced people. This shouldn’t be the priority in the middle of a global health crisis. 

You should keep wearing a mask because we just don’t know a lot. Scientists are still looking into questions like: “How effective are the vaccines against variants of COVID-19?” “How well do the vaccines protect people with weakened immune systems?” and “How long will the vaccines last?” There is still a lot of research that needs to be done and that does not make me feel particularly safe walking around without some sort of safety precaution so I still carry a mask everywhere I go. 

Frankly, I think it boils down to “Better to be safe than sorry.” If you are able to wear a mask as another safety precaution, why wouldn’t you? This summer you’ll be seeing me masked up. I hope you choose to do the same.