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The past year has seen the world battle a novel coronavirus, with many countries having to introduce significant changes to their way of life in an attempt to slow the spread of the disease. However, hope is now on the horizon, in the form of vaccination programs.
There are now several approved vaccines being used to protect the public in different parts of the world. In some countries, significant proportions of the population have received their jabs, and it’s starting to look like the end of the pandemic could be in sight. While this is fantastic news in the fight against Covid-19, it does pose some difficult questions regarding masks, sanitizing, and social distancing measures.
Vaccinated people are now asking whether or not they need to follow strict social distancing rules, and how important hand hygiene is to them now that they’ve received some immunity from coronavirus. So, what does vaccination mean for the protective measures that have become part of our daily lives, and how will the rollout of vaccines and boosters affect these new habits in the future?
Should hand sanitizing continue after vaccination?
In the UK, over 32 million people have now had their first covid-19 vaccination. Seven million have received both jabs, giving them a good level of protection from the virus. But does this mean that they should stop using hand sanitizer?
Experts are recommending extreme caution when it comes to relaxing habits around good hand hygiene, particularly when it comes to the use of hand sanitizer. Of course, vaccines do limit the risk of developing severe disease, but they fall short in a number of other ways. And that’s why hand sanitizers remain hugely important.
A vaccinated individual is less likely to suffer the extreme effects of Covid-19, but it remains to be seen whether they might still be able to contract the virus and pass it on to those around them. If individuals that the person comes into contact with haven’t been vaccinated, then neglecting to use hand sanitizer could result in them falling ill with the virus.
Some groups of people are currently being advised not to have the vaccine, such as those with particular health conditions, those aged under 18, and pregnant women. It is therefore down to the vaccinated individuals to continue taking strict hand hygiene precautions, to lessen the risk for these groups.
While young children are unlikely to fall seriously ill with Covid-19, they are renowned for their carelessness when it comes to hygiene. Toddlers, for instance, can’t resist touching almost any surface when out and about! So it’s down to adults to make sure that youngsters keep using hand sanitizers, and that surfaces within the home are kept clean using suitable alcohol-based sanitizing products.
Does vaccination make masks unnecessary?
The use of face coverings remains mandatory in many public places, whether individuals have had a vaccination or not. This is largely down to the fact that vaccinated people may still be able to transmit the virus to those around them, and the risk of them doing so is heightened in enclosed spaces. It’s therefore particularly important that face coverings continue to be worn in situations where social distancing is difficult, such as on public transport and in shops.
The use of face coverings should be seen as a way to protect those around you, rather than simply an added layer of protection for the wearer. Masks can significantly reduce the chance of an infected individual passing the virus on to those who happen to be nearby, and it remains to be seen whether or not vaccinated individuals will still be able to transmit the virus, even if they don’t get seriously ill from it.
Until more is known about the effects of the virus on transmission, it is being widely recommended that vaccinated people continue to wear face coverings when shopping, traveling, or visiting healthcare settings. Those who have been vaccinated should also bear in mind that their level of protection may not be adequate until they’ve had the second jab and that it’ll usually be two to three weeks until the vaccine takes full effect.
How should social distancing be approached once people are fully vaccinated?
Social distancing remains one of the pivotal recommendations in fighting the spread of Covid-19. This is unlikely to change anytime soon. Vaccination programs are proving successful in many countries, yet social distancing measures are yet to be relaxed. And there are a few reasons for this.
Experts recommend that social distancing continues for the foreseeable future because there remains a lack of data surrounding how vaccination affects transmission. As more studies are conducted into this issue, we will begin to learn more about the likelihood of vaccinated individuals transmitting the virus, and therefore the importance of continuing social distancing precautions.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that even in countries with the most advanced vaccination programs, large numbers of the population are still waiting to receive both jabs. Social distancing therefore cannot be relaxed as it could put these people at greater risk.
Individuals are being advised to continue to make space between themselves and others wherever possible. A two-meter gap remains the key recommendation. If this isn’t possible then it’s best to stay 1m apart from others and take other protective measures such as wearing a face covering and sanitizing hands.
Social distancing precautions do present a host of challenges for businesses, which is why these measures are under constant review. It is hoped that social distancing rules may be relaxed by the summer when a far greater proportion of the population is vaccinated and more is known about transmission between vaccinated people.
Vaccination programs may well be the light at the end of the tunnel in the Covid-19 pandemic, but we can’t truly relax until far greater numbers of people are fully vaccinated. Masks, sanitizing and social distancing will remain important parts of our daily lives over the coming weeks and months while increasing numbers of people are vaccinated around the world. With the threat of new variants and the risk of transmission remaining high, we all must do what we can to slow the spread of this highly infectious virus.