TAMPA, Fla — Despite revised guidelines, some fully vaccinated people say they’re going to continue to wear their masks when out in public, citing the fact that you can’t tell who has been vaccinated.
Dr. Jason Salemi, an epidemiologist at the University of South Florida who specializes in health data, says there’s a growing body of evidence showing the risk of being infected with COVID-19 or transmitting the virus is low for a fully vaccinated person.
“I think if fully vaccinated people are adhering to these new guidelines and if people who are not yet fully vaccinated are still wearing masks and socially distancing then it does make a lot of sense,” Salemi said, referring to revised guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We’ve known for a while now there’s a lot of safety for fully vaccinated people but the challenge just becomes when there are still so many unvaccinated people.”
The latest data from the CDC shows less than half the country is fully vaccinated for COVID-19. In Florida, roughly 35 percent of the population is fully vaccinated— meaning they are 14 days out from either their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna shot or one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Continued real-world studies of all three vaccines approved in the U.S. have shown efficacy rates similar to the clinical trials.
“It’s a 95-percent risk reduction – so what that means is if your risk prior to getting vaccinated was, let’s say pretty high, like 1 in 50 chance that you were going to be hospitalized or die, getting vaccinated translates it from a 1 in 50 to 1 in a 1,000 chance,” he said.
While you can still get COVID-19 after getting the vaccine, Salemi says data shows your risk is reduced considerably.
When it comes to so-called "breakthrough" cases of COVID-19 in vaccinated people, CDC data as of May 10 shows 1,359 of those cases have been serious enough to result in hospitalization or death—out of more than 115 million vaccinated people.
It’s a 1 in 185,000 chance, according to Salemi.
If a fully vaccinated person were to get COVID-19, increasing evidence suggests they are less likely to be symptomatic and transmit it.
“What we're seeing about those infections is that they tend to have a lower amount of virus, they tend to be asymptomatic, and we believe that lower amount of virus means they can't really give it to anybody else,” said CDC director Rochelle Walensky.
Preliminary data from an Israeli study shows individuals who received the Pfizer vaccine who then became infected with COVID-19 had viral loads four times lower than an unvaccinated person.
But for fully vaccinated individuals who want to continue masking up, Salemi says it’s understandable.
“There are plenty of children who are out there who, even though their risk is low, they're not protected by the vaccine,” he said. “There are 800,000 elderly people in Florida who have not gotten a single dose of the vaccine … so I think there's nothing wrong with continuing to want to wear a mask."
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