From the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, people were already asked to wear face masks, wash their hands regularly, and avoid any close contact. Now with vaccines, experts advise that these health protocols must be continued.

The United Kingdom has already started vaccinating its citizens, starting from its oldest population. The vaccines developed by pharmaceutical companies, Pfizer and BioNtech, seems to have great promise. However, experts said that it does not mean face masks and social distancing should no longer be practice.

Are Face Masks Still Essential?

Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine is said to be 95% effective with no significant side-effects, according to The New York Times. Together with BioNTech, the two vaccines are expected to be approved for use in other countries soon, such as the United States and Canada.

Although these vaccines are remarkably good at preventing serious illness, it is still unclear how well they will help curb the spread of COVID-19. For that reason, face masks and social distancing are still essential even when vaccines are already available. 

"A lot of people are thinking that once they get vaccinated, they're not going to have to wear masks anymore," said Michal Tal, an immunologist at Stanford University. "It's really going to be critical for them to know if they have to keep wearing masks because they could still be contagious."

Moreover, the possibility of vaccine recipients unknowingly spread the virus is still there because the vaccines only show their effectiveness in protecting the person from the virus and not whether these vaccn=inated individuals could spread the virus.

Infectious disease expert Dr. Zain Chagia told CTV News that there is nothing in Pfizer's data that says vaccinated people are less transmissible. All that these individuals get from the vaccine is have a less symptomatic disease than those non-vaccinated people.

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Vaccine Effectivity

Since vaccine developers are still uncertain whether their vaccines can prevent further transmission of the virus, experts said it is still important that people should follow health protocols, like wearing face masks.

Clinical microbiologist Dr. Rob Kozak of the Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto said that it will take time for everyone to get vaccinated so masks are probably not going anywhere soon, and it is hard to say if everything will be back to normal by next April.

Still, experts are optimistic that the vaccines would suppress the virus enough even in the nose to prevent transmission of COVID-19 to others.

Immunologist Akiko Iwasaki of Yale University said that once a person form immunity with the vaccine, their ability to get infected goes down, Yahoo! News reported. "Even if you're infected, the level of virus that you replicate in your nose should be reduced," Iwasaki said.

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