Why You Will Want to Own Masks Even After the COVID-19 Pandemic Ends
Masks aren’t going away. Experts say continuing to wear masks is an essential part of prevention. Before assuming that’s overkill, consider the facts. Once the vaccine has reached the public, it will be like any other spreadable condition. Do you know if the person next to you has had their flu shots? Why is a tiny pouch of Abreva accompanying you on your blind date? See, no one will really know who has or hasn’t had the vaccine.
Unknown Scheduling Issues
It’s not possible to vaccinate everyone all at once, even if everyone was willing. Plus, there are health conditions out there that make vaccination an impossibility for some people. This particular vaccine is also different in that it requires a schedule to maximize protective benefits. Sometimes you might need a booster, or another shot after a certain amount of time goes by, and since everyone will be getting vaccinated at different times, it won’t be possible to keep track of everyone’s schedule.
For all of these reasons, you need to continue wearing your mask in order to protect yourself as much as possible. There is a big misconception that the vaccine is an end-all solution to the epidemic. Unfortunately, vaccine effectiveness varies. Depending on age and any health conditions at stake, the degree to which the vaccine works is relative to the person. Additionally, the FDA licenses vaccines at the 50% mark, which means that at this standard, only half of the people who get the vaccine will be 100% protected. That is not the best rate in the world. In a small group of people, you could be the one unprotected.
Controversy and N95 Masks
There are also parts of the population who adamantly reject both vaccination and masks, creating additional risk to exposure and the spreading of the virus. Like vaccination and the need to wear a mask, controversy also exists over the type of mask that is best equipped to protect against the spread of the virus, which brings in the name of N95 mask.
The n95 mask is found to filter particles at an efficiency rate of 95%. Due to the size of particles the mask catches, many feel that the n95 mask is the best around in terms of filtering out droplets from coughing, talking, and sneezing. Originally, n95 masks were used for construction workers exposed to dust and hazardous breathing environments. The effectiveness of these masks to avoid dust and particle exposure prompted the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to conduct studies and determine if these masks were effective in blocking viruses as well.
Due to the green light given by such a major organization, healthcare professionals are required to wear these masks as they offer the best protection against the virus. Some people say that masks are detrimental to the prevention process, as the masks do not prevent the virus from escaping through the valves. They argue that the valves which protect the user place other people at risk. As the user breathes out, the air is not filtered, rendering the ability to infect others, if the person is an asymptomatic carrier of the virus.
While there certainly isn’t a perfect mask design, wearing a mask in general, and following all of the guidelines for protection and sanitation reduces the risk of infection. This is ultimately the best that people can do, with or without vaccination.
Re-infections are Possible
Here’s another kicker- re-infections exist. Even with the vaccine, re-infections can occur in some people. There are different strains of the virus out there and traveling exposes the risk of contracting these strains and spreading them to others. As the virus evolves, the vaccine may not be fully equipped to kill off new strains. The only indicator that suggests it’s maybe time to take the masks off, is when an ongoing decline in community cases and deaths show promise for a brighter future. Once minimal spread is reached, it will be more practical for health responders to knock out individual cases before they spread. Only when this happens is taking off masks a real consideration. For now, people are encouraged to upgrade their face-coverings by switching to more efficient masks like the Airweave Merino Mask.
Cold Chain Requirements
Another misconception: the wait time for vaccination is not only a matter of totalitarian priority, it is, also a waiting game because of the cold chain requirements that some of the vaccines need to stay alive and effective. The thawing process has to take place on time because early or late release can cause the vaccine to lose effectiveness. Due to all of these factors, the wait time for vaccination is months from now, and possibly longer than that. This isn’t a quick fix like receiving immunity from chickenpox.
Timeframe and Traveling Woes
It’s also been reported that even those with the vaccine can still spread the virus. This understanding has prompted many hospitals in the US to enact policies that further minimize the spread of infection. Right now, the order of those to receive the vaccine include health workers first, essential workers, second, those over 65, third, and adults with high-risk vulnerabilities, fourth. As far as otherwise healthy adults, teens, and children, who comes before who and the general timeframe continue to be unknowns. Traveling is a major risk factor that many people will continue to be unwilling to give up, as it influences their livelihood and ability to financially take care of their families. Nevertheless, new strains of the virus are at a greater risk of infecting the public as traveling continues and exposure to new strains increases.
It’s going to take quite some time to get to the point of virus minimization, and vaccines, while helpful, are not the only protective measure we need. A lot of us are jumping ahead and only considering what life will look like once the vaccine is available for everyone. We are not there yet, and in the meantime, wearing your mask is of the utmost importance, as masks, social distancing, and frequent handwashing are the only real preventative measures available.