Each week, OMRF President Dr. Stephen Prescott opens “Adam’s Journal” to answer a medical question from OMRF Senior Vice President and General Counsel Adam Cohen.
Here’s a question from a reader:
According to the new Centers for Disease Control guidelines for people who’ve received vaccinations for Covid-19, “If you’ve been fully vaccinated … You can gather indoors with fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask.”
I don’t understand this. If I have been vaccinated, why does it matter if others have been or not?
Dr. Prescott Prescribes
The primary reason we continue to worry about vaccinated people wearing a mask is that we do not yet know whether they can still transmit the virus to others who have not. So, even if you are asymptomatic, if you gather unmasked in a room with other unmasked people who haven’t received the vaccine, you might unknowingly transmit it to them.
In addition, we’re also seeing cases in which the vaccines don’t protect against some new variants of SARS-CoV-2. If you fail to wear a mask around others who don’t have a mask and are carrying one of these variants, your chances of contracting an infection increase substantially.
It’s also important to remember that while the vaccines are effective, they are not perfect. In clinical trials, we’ve still seen a certain percentage of people (5 to 15%) who don’t form immune responses sufficient to stop them from getting ill.
Happily, in most of these cases, the vaccines still offer enough protection to prevent hospitalization and death. But you don’t want to roll the dice, particularly because we’re still discovering all of the different ways in which even seemingly mild cases can damage the body in the long term.
There’s long Covid, which seems potentially to impact multiple different systems – including cardiovascular, respiratory and neurological – and also to cause chronic fatigue and mental health issues. In addition, at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, we’re studying whether infection can open the door to autoimmune-disease-like conditions, or even the diseases themselves.
With so much still unknown, and so much potential downside to infection, caution remains in order. Yes, masks are a nuisance. But hang on for a little longer. Because an ounce of prevention is worth at least a pound of cure.
Do you have a health query for Dr. Prescott? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and your question may be answered in a future column!