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COVID protective measures must continue as vaccine rolls out

(Mary Altaffer | AP)
Published: Feb. 1, 2021 at 11:54 AM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) -This week, Douglas County moves into a new phase of vaccinations. First up, people 80 and older and those with underlying health conditions.

Even as more people get the vaccine, health leaders in the community say masks and social distancing will continue to be necessary for a while.

The latest data from Douglas County shows a little more than 45,000 people have received the COVID-19 vaccine. Out of that group, not even a third have received their second dose, which would give them at least 94% protection. In total, less than 3% of the county’s population – 16 and older- is currently vaccinated.

Doctor Mark Rupp with UNMC says it will likely be mid-year before a substantial number of people are vaccinated.

“It’s only when we get to that level throughout the community when we reach the herd immunity, nobody knows exactly where it will be - it’s probably 60, 70, 80, 85% with regard to the number who are immune through vaccination or natural disease - after that we can start to relax our precautions,” he said.

Dr. Rupp says that’s especially important because while the vaccines appear to prevent people from getting the virus, it’s not clear yet whether vaccinated people can still be infected and spread the virus in an asymptomatic manner.

Bottom line: more research is needed.

“The data so far is reassuring and suggests that the vaccine prevents a large amount of that, we’re not quite sure at what level,” he said. “So that’s one of those small pieces of data that still needs to be gathered. Until then, people should still continue to mask.”

He also stresses the importance of continued mask-wearing and social distancing as new variants of Coronavirus pop up in South Africa, the UK, and Brazil – strains that are potentially more transmissible.

Dr. Rupp says with all this combined – until we get to herd immunity – masks will continue to be a part of our daily lives.

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dr. rupp also touted the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines on the market right now, saying it’s the only way we can return to normal.

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