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"Never" Do This After Your COVID Vaccine, Say Experts

Skipping it might set back progress against the pandemic.

After you've been vaccinated against COVID-19, it'll be tempting to shake off the last year and return to pre-pandemic routine. But there is one thing experts say you must keep doing: Wearing a mask. Never forget one. The CDC released its first guidelines for fully vaccinated people last week. They say it's OK for fully vaccinated people to socialize with other fully vaccinated people at home. But, the agency emphasizes, fully vaccinated people should still wear a mask and practice social distancing when they're in public. Read on to find out why, and to ensure your health, remember: Doctors Say "DO NOT" Do This After Your COVID Vaccine.

This is why you "must" wear your mask after vaccination

The primary concern: It's still unclear whether the vaccine only prevents COVID-19 symptoms, or if it prevents you from carrying the virus and transmitting it to others as well. 

Therefore, "you should wear a mask" after you've been vaccinated, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, last week. "Recent data are indicating that the level of virus in your nasal pharynx, if you're vaccinated, is extremely low," he added. "And I think a couple of months from now, I might modify that statement and say it would be extremely unusual that you transmitted. But right now, just to be careful, wear a mask."

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Mask-wearing here to stay, for now

Experts also emphasize that "fully vaccinated" means two weeks after your Johnson & Johnson shot, or second Pfizer or Moderna dose. It takes time for antibodies to develop.

Fauci and other health experts have said that it may be necessary to wear masks for the rest of this year, or until 75 to 80 percent of Americans are vaccinated and "herd immunity" is reached.

"People say, 'When is it going to get back to normal and I don't have to wear my mask anymore?'" emergency physician Dr. Leana Wen said on CNN this week. "That's not the right way to think about this. We want our businesses to come back. We want our churches to be open for in-person service and our schools open for in-person learning. We need masks to do that."

In a March 3 interview with NPR, CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky acknowledged the reality of pandemic fatigue. "We are all exhausted," she said. But the rollout of vaccines means "there is a vision, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Now is not the time to stop wearing a mask."

RELATED: If You Feel This You May Have Already Had COVID Says Dr. Fauci

How to survive this pandemic

As for yourself, do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19 in the first place: Wear a face mask, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor whose health and lifestyle content has also been published on Beachbody and Openfit. A contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, he has also been published in New York, Architectural Digest, Interview, and many others. Read more about Michael