After getting a COVID-19 vaccine, can we ditch our masks? Santa Clara County weighs in
People line up for hot meals, fresh groceries and free masks at the Di Lac Temple in San Jose. Photo by Nicholas Chan.

The moment America has been waiting for since mid March has arrived.

Truckloads of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccines departed a warehouse in Michigan this week and made their way by truck or plane to hundreds of locations across the country. Santa Clara County received its first batch of 17,550 shots Dec. 15, kicking off the start of the biggest vaccine distribution effort in U.S. history.

The vaccines come after COVID-19 killed 300,000 people nationwide. And while it could take months for vaccines to reach most South Bay residents — the first shots are going to health care professionals — some are wondering if getting a vaccine means we can ditch our masks.

Not anytime soon.

National health experts, such as Vickie Mays, a professor of health policy and management at UCLA, say getting vaccinated doesn’t mean you won’t get infected. It could, however, reduce the consequences and prevent people from getting deathly sick.

Santa Clara County public health officials agree.

“Even with the hopeful news that the first shipments of the COVID-19 vaccine are scheduled to begin arriving to Santa Clara County this week, it is still critical that everyone continue to wear a face covering when outside their household, as well as follow all other public health guidance and orders,” health officials told San José Spotlight.

While masks have been politicized, a new Hill-HarrisX poll found an overwhelming majority of voters support a national mask mandate. The poll found 75% of registered voters in the Nov. 10-13 survey voiced support for a national mandate to wear a face mask. The remaining 25% said they would oppose such an order.

Santa Clara County leaders said everyone needs to do their part to stay safe “while we wait for vaccines to be widely available and for a sufficient portion of the population to be immunized.”

“It will likely take several months for our community to reach a level of herd immunity which will need to be well over 70% of the population vaccinated,” officials said. “In the meantime, we must all continue to follow all the safety guidance in place, especially wearing a face covering. Vaccines are one critical tool in the toolbox to fight COVID-19. Stopping the pandemic will require using all of the tools that we have.”

Have a question about COVID-19 vaccines? Email [email protected] and we’ll get the answer.

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