The country entered a new era following launching of the Covid-19 vaccine campaign on January 27 this year. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has virtually inaugurated the country’s vaccination programme against the deadly virus through videoconferencing from her official Ganobhaban residence. The historic campaign kicked off by first inoculating a staff nurse of the capital’s Kurmitola General Hospital. In the first phase, 3.5 million people have been targeted for inoculation. We welcome the bold initiative of the administration that has been initiated to crush the deadly virus.
However, a lot of people are thinking that once they get vaccinated, they will no more need wearing masks. It is critical for them to know that they have to keep wearing masks because they could still be contagious. As the Covid-19 vaccine is new, there is not enough evidence at this stage to know if people can still carry the germ of the virus and pass them along to others without being infected themselves. Global health experts have already warned that people who have received a coronavirus vaccine could still pass it to others and should therefore continue wearing masks. Experts have opined that no vaccine has ever been cent per cent effective. There is no guaranteed protection. So, it is better to wear masks and follow other health guides even after vaccination.People require two doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for inoculation. It is possible to contract the virus in the two-to-three-week period after receiving the first shot of the vaccine. It is better to allow at least three weeks for an immune response to fully develop in older people. Even after anyone have had both doses of the vaccine he/she may still give the virus to someone else and the chains of transmission will then continue. If anyone changes his/her behaviour, he/she could still be spreading the virus, keeping the number of cases high and putting others at risk who also need vaccine but their turn is yet to arrive.
After anyone receives the shot of vaccine, his/her body needs time to build the protection needed to fight the virus. It could take up to two weeks for the vaccine to begin protecting himself/herself against the virus, health experts said. This gives enough time for the virus to grow in the respiratory passages and spread the infection to others. During that time, it is important to keep oneself and those around him/her safe by continuing to wear a mask when around others outside the household.
Until health experts fully understand the protection a vaccine provides, it is important to continue wearing a mask. Once a country authorises a vaccine, it will only be able to vaccinate a few per cent of their citizens at most in the first couple of months. It is going to take months or a longer period for enough of the population to be vaccinated to start seeing case numbers go down substantially. So, the unvaccinated majority will still remain vulnerable to getting infected. Wearing masks will help prevent spread of virus among communities of people until more of the population is vaccinated.
As scientists still do not know whether vaccines block transmission of the virus, vaccinated people need to wear masks, avoid crowds, and so on. There are instances that some vaccinated people get infected without developing symptoms and could then silently transmit the virus, especially if they stop wearing masks. If vaccinated people are silent spreaders of the virus, they may keep it circulating in their communities, putting unvaccinated people at risk. If after getting vaccinated, people stop wearing their masks, other people who have not been vaccinated could start thinking masks are not necessary anymore. If those unvaccinated people have the virus, they can spread it faster by not wearing a mask. Therefore, it is mandatory for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people to wear masks whenever they go outdoors.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), masks are a key measure to suppress transmission and save lives. A recent study has revealed that if 95 per cent of the public wear masks then tens of thousands of lives could be saved. Scientists still do not know the impact of the vaccine on transmission. The Covid-19 vaccine has proved to be a powerful shield against severe illness. Lungs, the site of severe symptoms, are much more accessible to the circulating antibodies than nose or throat, making them easier to safeguard.
Although vaccines offer hope, infection rates must have to be brought down quickly. As per health experts, wearing a face mask adds to the protection of vaccination. Wearing a face mask and getting vaccinated will offer the best protection from getting and spreading the virus.Our Prime Minister has also called upon the people who took the coronavirus vaccine or are planning to become inoculated to keep wearing masks to stay safe from getting infected. Earlier, she made wearing face masks mandatory. Following her directives, the government had adopted "No Mask, No Service" policy at all offices countrywide and it yielded positive results. Earlier, many people were seen reluctant to wear masks in Dhaka and other parts of the country. Most frequently, they were seen gathering at public places without wearing masks. But, because of the government’s right decision, the attitude of the people towards masks has changed to a great extent. Anyway, masks will always remain effective, but their consistent use is essential. Seriously, masks are people’s friends.
Scientists are relentlessly working to free humankind from the scourge of the pandemic although they predicted on earlier occasions that this coronavirus is here for the long haul for the next few years. In such a situation, we have entered the New Year with renewed hopes. But, we are yet to see as to how the pandemic might play out in the ongoing year. However, it can be asserted that the course of the pandemic this year depends greatly on the effectiveness of the vaccine and people’s behaviour.
The writer is a columnist. He may be reached at: [email protected]