Watch CBS News

Will I have to wear a mask once I get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Doctor on challenges of COVID vaccine rollout
As U.K. starts rolling out COVID vaccine, doctor says U.S. faces challenges 10:41

With three potential coronavirus vaccines showing promise, and two awaiting authorization from the FDA, state and federal officials have begun announcing ambitious distribution plans to get vaccines to millions of Americans starting as soon as next week. It will take months to reach everyone who wants the shots, but some optimistic Americans are already asking: Will I still have to wear a mask after I'm vaccinated?

"Eventually I think we won't, but I think until we know that this vaccine is working, we are going to have to wear a mask," pediatrician Dr. Dyan Hes said on CBSN.

Pfizer and BioNTech have provided data to the FDA showing that their coronavirus vaccine is safe and 95% effective in clinical trials. An FDA advisory committee is scheduled to meet Thursday to consider emergency approval.

Moderna is also seeking authorization for its vaccine, which it says is 94.5% effective based on preliminary data. And a team from Oxford and AstraZeneca just published peer-reviewed data on their vaccine's Phase 3 clinical trials in the Lancet medical journal showing an effectiveness of up to 90%.

Yet even with those strong showings, effectiveness is not 100%. A small number of people who got vaccinated in the clinical trials still caught COVID-19, although Pfizer says their cases were mostly milder. 

And it might be possible for a person who got vaccinated to transmit the virus to others even if they don't get sick themselves.

"We don't have the clinical trials to show that the people who are vaccinated are not shedding the virus — they might not be getting sick, but they might still be shedding if they got it," Dr. Hes explained.

She warned it may be "hard to enforce" mask compliance once people get vaccinated.

"People are going to think this vaccine is like a pass, like you're going to have a passport that you're vaccinated," she said, but stressed that the evidence isn't there yet.

CDC calls for universal mask wearing as cases surge 07:28

People in the United Kingdom have already begun to receive the Pfizer vaccine Tuesday after the British government granted emergency approval there. What the U.S. can take away from the U.K.'s distribution effort is its "organization," Hes said.

"I just worry that planning, because the United States is so diverse, and every state is so independent from each other, how are we going to do this seamlessly?" she asked, adding, "Even for doctors, we don't know when we're going to get our vaccines yet."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.