Because the leading vaccine makers don’t know yet if their vaccines will prevent transmission of the virus, infectious disease specialists said it’s important for people to continue to wear face masks and follow public health advice even after they’ve been immunized.
Dr. Rob Kozak, a clinical microbiologist at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto who helped isolate the SARS-CoV-2 virus in March, said health officials won’t be able to lessen restrictions until they can see the results of these mass immunizations campaigns.
“It’s going to take time for everybody to get vaccinated, not just in Canada, but across the world,” he said. “The masks probably aren’t going anywhere. I don’t think that we’re going to be back to normal by next April.”
Chagla said data released on Tuesday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on the Pfizer vaccine showed that it can take some time before a vaccine will be protective against the disease.
“You see some of the divergence between people who weren’t vaccinated and who were around day 20 to 28 after the first dose, so it does take some time, meaning you can get COVID the day after you get vaccinated,” he said.
Ostrowski said the length of time people will be required to wear masks will also depend on how quickly countries are able to vaccinate their populations.
“It’s going to take a while to vaccinate everyone, especially since these new vaccines are very difficult to both distribute and keep stable,” he said.
Although there are still many questions surrounding these vaccines, such as how they will be able to provide protection, if they prevent transmission, and how they affect different groups, Kozak said they are a great first step in the fight against COVID-19 and scientists will only continue to improve upon them.
“These vaccines are protective, they will work,” he said. “The question now is, can we continue to optimize them so they’ll become even better so that we potentially need fewer doses, or it protects against transmission, or it completely provides sterilizing immunity? These are the bigger questions, but once we have these first generation ones in place, that gives us a little more time to think about that kind of stuff.”