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Milwaukee Infectious Disease Expert Says Vaccine Does Not Mean The End Of Masks Or Social Distancing

Joe Raedle
Getty Images
A healthcare worker at the Jackson Health Systems receives a Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine from Susana Flores Villamil, RN from Jackson Health Systems, at the Jackson Memorial Hospital on Dec. 15, 2020 in Miami, FL.

Wisconsin has begun distributing vaccinations for COVID-19 to health care workers, first responders and those in long-term care facilities. Soon that may include childcare and K-12 school employees, incarcerated people, public transit workers and everyone 65 and older.

But getting vaccinated doesn’t mean that taking measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 will end.

“It’s gonna be a while before we go back to what we can call normal,” says Dr. Carlos Figueroa Castro, an infectious disease specialist and assistant professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin.  

Much is still not known about COVID-19 and how exactly the vaccination process will affect day-to-day life. Castro explains that there is a possibility that even after all the vaccinations are given that COVID-19 becomes a seasonal issue like the flu.

This is because like all viruses, it evolves and there may need to be additional vaccines that are able to deal with new evolutions.

“It’s a possibility, it’s still obviously very early to judge if instead of being a pandemic situation where no one is immune and the virus is circulating because they have a host that has not been exposed to it, it isn’t clear if maybe this will become a seasonal like we have with influenza,” he says.

The biggest issue if COVID-19 does stick around is the severity. Many other viruses exist that cause nothing more than a cough or runny nose but the world has seen how terrible this virus can be.

In the short term, there are still questions about the current vaccines and what measures those who have been vaccinated need to take.

“That’s exactly why we are still sending the messages about using the mask even after you’ve been vaccinated and that’s exactly the reason why, we don’t know if the vaccine acts in decreasing the transmissibility of the virus to others,” he says.

Castro also continues to recommend social distancing and frequent handwashing even after getting vaccinated. He acknowledges that people may be experiencing burnout from not having social interactions or a feeling of normalcy, but he says to keep going because the vaccine will help eventually bring back the real world.

“Help is on the way,” he says.

Joy Powers hosts and produces Lake Effect. She joined WUWM in 2016.