Should I wear a mask after COVID 19 vaccination? Yes most certainly you should, for the following reasons:
The vaccine is not a 100% guarantee.
The vaccine is not guarantee of 100% protection. If 100 people receive the vaccine, only 90% are protected (at best). For some vaccine brands the protection rates are lower. These rates are calculated based on the automatic assumption that the cold chain logistics of the vaccine given to you were impeccably maintained (storage and transport at minus 80 degrees centigrade for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and 3-8 degrees centigrade for the Astra Zenica and Bharat Biotech vaccine candidates).
If the storage and transportation of the vaccine does not meet recommended cold chain standards, the degree of protection is likely to be far less than that claimed by the manufacturer. Vaccine trials did not take into account the mask wearing behaviour among participants. Whether the protection of 90% was achieved only when all participants also wore masks is unknown. Whether the protection of 90% will be achieved when no participant wears a mask is unknown at this point.
If you belong to the unfortunate 10% who are unprotected despite all the logistics of the vaccine being in place, you should wear a mask till the COVID virus infection risk exists in the world around you. So should I wear a mask after COVID 19 vaccination? Yes this could be an important reason why you should.
The current corona virus vaccines consist of two deep intramuscular injections apart four weeks apart. They stimulate the immune system of the host to produce antibodies. These antibodies appear to be sufficient to provide protection to the vaccinated person from getting ill with COVID 19. Some of those antibodies will circulate in the blood to the nasal mucosa and stand guard there, but it is currently unclear how much of this antibody pool can be quickly mobilized in response to an COVID infection in the throat and / or nose.
If the answer is not much, then viruses could multiply in the nose and throat and be sneezed or breathed out to infect others. It is however encouraging to note that a recently published study of Covid-19 patients found that antibody levels in saliva and blood were almost the same, suggesting that a strong immune response in the blood would also protect mucosal tissues in the throat.
Protection against respiratory viruses are the best when the vaccine is a nasal spray and not by deep intramuscular injections. A lot of current COVID 19 vaccine research is now focused on the development of a nasal spray vaccine, since the portal of entry of the offending virus and the potential protective vaccine are both at the same site. It’s a race between whether the virus can replicate faster, or the immune system can control it faster. So should I wear a mask after COVID 19 vaccination? It is certainly sensible to do so.
Lastly the COVID 19 has been around only for a little over a year. Medical researchers are still grappling with understanding its transmissibility and infectivity to design suitable preventive measures, one of which is a vaccine.So should I wear a mask after COVID 19 vaccination? Yes. This could be another important reason.
When does full protection kick in?
Even if you belong to the 90% group (described above) vaccine induced protection kicks in only about 2 weeks after the second dose. Till such time susceptibility continues to exist. So should I wear a mask after COVID 19 vaccination? Yes its certainly good for you to do so.
The COVID 19 vaccine in immunocompromised people.
The vaccine protects by inducing the immune system to produce protective antibodies. If for some reason you are “immuno-compromised” and your immune system is not in “good nick”, you may still develop COVID even after vaccination. If you are immuno compromised you are more succeptible to not only COVID 19 disease but also to all other viral and bacterial infections as well. People who are elderly, people with disseminated cancer and those who have had a transplantation of various organs such as the kidney, heart lungs etc are all well known to have weakened immune systems. So should I wear a mask after COVID 19 vaccination. Yes, especially if I am immunocompromised.
Duration of protection of the COVID 19 vaccination.
Protection offered by the vaccine is not permanent. its exact duration is unknown as of today but studies suggest that its likely to be of a few months duration, at best a year. Research is leaning towards an “annual shot” similar to the Influenza (common flu) vaccine to ensure continuous protection over many years. So if it is almost a year after your last COVID 19 vaccine shot, you may still be susceptible to an infection if the COVID 19 virus is still prevalent in your immediate neighborhood if you are nearing the fag end of the protected period.
Effectiveness against all variants / mutants.
The currently vaccines may not be equally protective against all the currently known variants of the virus.
Protection against virus mutants.
The COVID 19 virus, like all other viruses is known to mutate over time. The current vaccines may not be protective against all of the mutant strains that may appear in the future.
The silent spreader.
The COVID 19 vaccine prevents you from developing the disease but does not prevent the virus from lodging itself in your nose and throat. You may be protected but you can still spread the virus to people around you when you speak, cough and sneeze. You have a moral responsibility to those around you! You do not want to be a silent spreader! The vaccine would protect you but a mask will protect the people around you! So should I wear a mask after COVID 19 vaccination? the answer is obvious.
To break the back of this devastating pandemic approximately 70% of the population will need to have protective antibodies either through recovery after COVID infection or after a full vaccination (herd immunity). This critical 70% figure is likely to be much less if vaccination is combined with continued masking, social distancing and frequent hand washing. So, go on and do your bit for the world in which you live!
At this point in time, a face mask is a marker of how socially responsible and sensitive you are to the environment around you so flaut your mask with pride. A mask will cease to become mandatory only when the pandemic dies down because either herd immunity kicks in or a sufficiently large percentage of the population have been fully vaccinated. Both these possibilities are likely to take a little more time.
When will life return to normal?
Thats a million dollar question. Right now there are no clear answers or indicators just yet. At this point in time you would have to look into the crystal ball yourself! The 1918 Spanish flu pandemic took almsot 2 years to die down completely. Priority number one for the world is to reduce the incidence of severe COVID disease. Priority number 2 is to prevent even mild disease. Priority number 3 is eliminate the disease completely. The world is nowhere near addressing priority number 3 at this point. So should I wear a mask after COVID 19 vaccination? Yes! Until priority number 3 is achieved, vaccination, masks, social distancing and frequent hand washing are here to stay. Stay safe. Live well. Cheers.