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A lot of people have been asking me why they need to keep wearing their masks after being fully vaccinated. There are quite a few reasons, but keep the faith, those restrictions will eventually ease as more people become vaccinated.

No vaccine is 100% guaranteed. These vaccines were developed to prevent severe illness in people. We’re still waiting on “real world data” to determine if the vaccines also limit transmission. Preliminary studies in Israel and Spain did seem to show vaccinated people were less likely to transmit the virus, but those were small samples and more data is needed.

A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with “real world data” showed the Pfizer (BioNTech) and Moderna vaccines are up to 90% effective about two weeks after the second dose. According to the CDC, the one dose Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) vaccine is 66.3% effective in clinical trials at preventing COVID-19 illness.

Until more science is gathered, the issue is that you can still contract the virus despite being vaccinated. You won’t get as sick, but there’s a chance you can pass on the virus to those unvaccinated. The chance is small, but it’s there. Which is why those in public health keep insisting that masks, hand washing and social distancing are still important.

Another reason health experts want you to keep masking in public is because of the variants. Fortunately, the vaccines do seem to be effective against the now predominant mutation, B.1.1.7. or the UK variant. However, there are other mutations floating around that may be stronger than the vaccines.

Around the country we’re seeing an uptick in cases again, especially in Michigan. The Ohio counties just south of the state line are also seeing a significant rise in cases. The state of Ohio has been sending additional vaccine doses to Lucas County and Cuyahoga County trying to get ahead of the spread.

Cleveland Clinic tells me it is seeing an uptick in COVID-19 cases in the ICU. Dr. Raed Dweik, chair of Cleveland Clinic’s Respiratory Institute, told me, “We’re seeing younger patients, sicker and more patients coming in, and it really breaks my heart every time I put someone on a breathing machine for something that would be prevented if they had the vaccine, and almost every person I saw last week did not have the vaccines.”

According to the CDC, 20% of unvaccinated people who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 will end up with severe disease, 5% will end up in intensive care and nearly 2% will die.

We need at least two hundred million Americans vaccinated to reach herd immunity, but a Kaiser Family Foundation survey found 37% either won’t get vaccinated or are still hesitant. That number does not take unvaccinated kids into account.

Experts are telling us we’ll likely need vaccine boosters in the next few months, meaning protection will eventually wane – even protection from natural infection. The most recent data showed both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are good for at least six months.

Even though we’re more than a year into this pandemic, there is still much researchers don’t know. And as we’ve seen from the beginning, as the virus evolves, so does science and guidelines will change.

Health experts hope you continue with the safety protocols when you are outside of your “personal bubble” and in public.

If you’re not sure about getting vaccinated, reach out to your personal health care provider and ask questions. Get the facts from reliable sources, such as the CDC, U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Ohio Department of Health.

The more people who get vaccinated, the more likely these restrictions will eventually lift.

Monica Robins is the Senior Health Correspondent at 3News. The information provided in this column is for educational and informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this column or on our website.

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