In short, yes, although there are some precautions that you should take into account before removing your mask. I turned to Ashish K. Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health for advice. He says there are four questions you should ask yourself if you want to spend time indoors with other vaccinated people, without a mask.
– Are you vaccinated?
– Are everyone else vaccinated?
– What is the level of spread in the community?
– Is there someone among you with high risk?
Even if everyone present is vaccinated, you have to think about the last two questions. The vaccine offers 95 percent protection (a calculation based on data from strictly controlled clinical trials, not the real world). But you also have to think about the chances of coming into contact with the virus. A five percent risk of infection when the virus is in full swing is still a significant risk.
“If the risk of infection is very high, then 95 percent is not low enough as long as the number of cases is as high as it is in the United States,” Jha said. “People should wear a mask even after vaccination. Over time, as the infection numbers go down, let’s say you have a five percent risk from a low base, then it becomes much safer. ”
The last question – if there is someone high risk in the meeting – is also important. Even if a high-risk person is vaccinated, extra precautions must be taken when virus case counts are high in the community. And keep in mind that the vaccine may not be 95 percent effective in all people: an older person or someone with a less efficient immune system may get less protection from the vaccine than a young, healthy person.
“Even if I have been vaccinated, during a devastating pandemic and with a terrible outlook, if I visit my elderly parents I will be careful; my tolerance for risk is low, ”said Jha. “I’m going to have a different threshold with my 82-year-old father than with my 47-year-old friend. As the pandemic subsides, I think we will be able to relax more. ”
Unfortunately, much of the public health messages around the vaccine have been to remind people to continue wearing masks, rather than also reminding them that after vaccination and with the proper precautions, we can safely socialize with other vaccinated people, without having to wear a mask.