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Vaccines good, but masks better!

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Dr Vishal Rao

Why you will still need to wear a mask even after getting a Covid-19 vaccine…

By Dr Vishal Rao

BENGALURU:

The clinical trials based on which most (if not all) of the Covid-19 vaccines are approved for emergency use provide sufficient evidence of the vaccines’ ability to prevent the Covid-19 disease, but not transmission.

What does this mean? Say you receive the vaccine and are exposed to someone shedding SARS-CoV-2. You will get infected by the virus, but the antibodies developed due to vaccination will prevent you from getting moderate-to-severe Covid-19.

Protected, but still infectious

It is also highly likely that you may get an asymptomatic infection and shed the virus despite being vaccinated, still carrying the risk of transmitting the virus to someone else.

Now, the one you transmit the infection to could be a high-risk individual who may not have the necessary antibodies to fight the virus, and may have serious complications. This could lead to even death in susceptible individuals.

Why is this so? Vaccines provide systemic immunity to fight against the virus, once it enters the body, but they may still leave areas, like the nose and throat, where the virus is relatively free to multiply and then potentially spread through coughing or sneezing, without making the host sick.

This obviously means that despite vaccination we must still wear masks and practise physical distancing to protect those around us, especially the vulnerable.

(Dr Vishal Rao is Associate Dean-Academics, HCG, and member of the state Covid task force.)

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