Experts have a dose of reality for people who were hoping to gleefully throw their masks away after receiving a coronavirus vaccination. "Unfortunately, getting vaccinated does not instantly mean we can go back to how life was before," Dr. Kristin Englund, an infection disease expert, told the Cleveland Clinic. "Until we have some level of herd immunity, the vaccine is now just another layer of protection against COVID-19." There's no end date yet on masks and social distancing. For one thing, per the AP, experts aren't sure how well vaccines prevent the spread of the coronavirus. That's how Dr. Anthony Fauci said he sees it. "Hang on," he advised a woman wanting to get together with her friends. Studies have begun, but no one knows whether a person who's been vaccinated but has the coronavirus can spread it to another person. And anyway, another immunologist said, "It's hard to tell who got vaccinated and who didn’t if you're just walking around the grocery store."
In general, he said, people who have been vaccinated should be able to feel "more confident about going shopping, for example, or going to see your grandkids, or giving your daughter a hug." They might want to keep in mind that the vaccine may help the immune systems of people who have an illness or are just older less than it would an otherwise healthy person, though. The Cleveland Clinic lists several reasons for keeping masks on: It's a couple of weeks after the second shot before the vaccine hits maximum effectiveness; we need to help protect people who can't receive the vaccine because their immune systems are compromised or other reasons; the protection delivered by the vaccines is excellent but not perfect; and the vaccine shortage means herd immunity is not within sight yet. "We may see mask guidelines start to change after enough people have been vaccinated and cases and deaths have dropped," Englund said. For now, she said, "we must remain vigilant." (Read more face masks stories.)