Why masks (and precautions) still matter!

Great news: Arizona has received initial supplies of both the Pfizer and Moderna coronavirus vaccines. It is expected that Arizona will receive over 325,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses by December 31. Vaccinations have begun for Arizonans who are in the first phase of distribution. This includes healthcare workers and those working in, and residing in, long-term care facilities. The next phase of distribution is scheduled to start late January.

So, once you get your COVID-19 vaccine, you can take off your mask and stop social distancing, right? NO, we need to keep wearing our masks!

Everyone in Arizona still needs to wear a mask, social distance, and avoid large groups.

Health experts are urging that everyone continue taking precautions not to spread the virus, even after they've received their shots. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it usually takes a few weeks for immunity to develop after any vaccine. Trial data suggest that this vaccine starts to offer some protection about 14 days after the first shot.

Clinical trials show the two vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna are more than 90% effective, and no vaccine is 100% effective. We will still be at risk for some time. Plus, it will take a while before everyone has had a chance to get a vaccine. In the meantime, people are still vulnerable to the virus.

We need to continue using every tool we have to fight the spread.

We don't know enough about the vaccine or the virus yet to predict when it'll be safe to stop wearing a mask or social distancing. But at least two things need to happen first:

  1. A large number of Americans need to get the vaccine.
  2. We need to be sure the vaccine offers long-term protection.
Once those things happen, we may begin to see herd immunity.

Working towards herd immunity through vaccination.
Herd immunity occurs when enough people are protected against a virus that it's unlikely to spread widely anymore. We have work to do before this will happen.

It's not yet clear how many people will need to be vaccinated before we reach herd immunity. But once we do, we should be able to stop wearing masks and socially distancing.

Until then, help keep your community safe by masking up and shrinking your circle.

Watch this video to learn how shrinking your circle can make a difference.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; The Arizona Department of Health Services; Johns Hopkins University.