This information has been approved by Lindsay Sense, RN (August 2022).
Before COVID-19 vaccination began, social distancing and mask wearing were our main methods of protection against COVID-19 infection.
The majority of Americans are now vaccinated. However, there are varying state and local guidelines regarding masking. Some might be asking, “If I have been vaccinated and am protected from this disease, then why should I keep wearing a mask in certain settings?”
We have made great strides in combating COVID, but there are still multiple reasons to take extra precautions. This is true even when you are vaccinated.
A percentage of the population needs to be immunized to achieve “herd immunity.” That percentage varies for infectious diseases. For example, the number for the highly contagious measles virus is close to 95 percent. Epidemiologists are not sure about the required number for COVID-19. Initial estimates put the number at 70 percent of the population being immunized. However, this estimate has been revised to over 80 to 90 percent. The addition of new variants also complicates this prediction.
Because of mass vaccination and prior infection, we are now beginning to see an easing of earlier restrictions. We may still need masks in certain situations — in hospitals and health care settings, for instance — but there is a path to herd immunity. So we should continue to be vigilant and considerate.
The information on our website is medically reviewed and accurate at the time of publication. Due to the changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, information may have since changed. CDC.gov and your state’s health department may offer additional guidance.