Gurgaon: People should continue to wear masks and follow all Covid safety protocols while stepping out of home even if they have got themselves inoculated, doctors have suggested. The vaccine, they said, only adds a layer of protection, but does not prevent the virus from spreading from one person to another while talking, breathing or sneezing.
Even the Indian Council of Medical Research has specified that the first dose of the Covid vaccine doesn’t help in creating the required amount of antibodies in a person immediately. “That is why people should continue wearing masks while stepping out even if they have got themselves vaccinated. The antibodies take time to develop. After the first dose, people should not let their guard down and wear the masks like they had done last year,” said Virender Yadav, the chief medical officer of Gurgaon.
Doctors in the city also said that the primary purpose of the vaccine was to reduce the severity of the infection in a person if he is tested positive, but not to shield him or her against the virus fully. “If a person wears a mask, the spread of the infection is negligible. For instance, if two persons with masks are sitting beside each other and one of them is Covid positive, there is only a 10-30% chance that the other person will contract the infection. If the Covid patient wears a mask and the healthy person doesn’t, there is 70% chance he may get infected. If both do not have masks, the chances of getting infected rise to 90%,” said Yadav.
Dr Manjeeta Nath Das, consultant (internal medicine) at Columbia Asia Hospital, also warned people against letting their guard down. “Many people think that once they have taken the vaccine, they can do without masks. But they can still be contagious after taking the shot. In most respiratory infections, including Covid, the nose is the main point of entry. The virus multiplies rapidly there. Therefore, safety protocols such as wearing facial masks and maintaining social distance need to continue in the future as well. Unfortunately, getting vaccinated doesn’t automatically mean we can get back to the lifestyle we had earlier. As long as we don’t have some level of herd immunity, the vaccine is just a layer of protection against Covid-19,” she added.
Dr. Shiba Kalyan Biswal, consultant (pulmonary and sleep medicine) at Narayana Hospital, also stressed on the need to follow Covid-appropriate behaviour. “Covid is a viral infection, which may change its nature with time and intrude into our bodies. So, getting vaccinated and following Covid safety protocols are key to staying safe. Wearing a mask is mandatory as we are still not out of the pandemic situation and have no idea when the strain might change and invade us. My advice to people is to get vaccinated and follow all precautionary measures,” Dr Biswal added.
The mask, doctors said, may be made of cloth and worn after proper washing. It should strictly cover the nose and mouth and should be of proper fit so that it does not slip off and on. Experts advised that people should not remove the mask while sneezing or coughing at any cost to prevent spread of droplets. People should not touch the mask while it is on the face and the strings should be tied properly from behind the ear. If a person has touched the mask, he or she should immediately sanitise the hands before touching any food or any other person. Masks with valves should be avoided as the exhaled air gets leaked from them, the doctors suggested.