On Wearing a Mask Indoors, Even When Vaccinated

Disclaimer: This post is not medical advice. Nothing on this website is, but I want to emphasize it today. This is my personal opinion as of July 17, 2021. I live in a place where Covid vaccines are widely available to people over age 12. The actual rates of vaccination in my community are suboptimal. 

Please also note this is absolutely no judgment of any other vaccinated person choosing not to wear a mask. Current evidence supports that decision too. [UPDATE: The CDC has adjusted recommendations. As of July 28, 2021, many vaccinated people are now advised to wear a mask indoors. See cdc.gov for most recent information]. We are each doing our best with the information we have. I’m just sharing my thoughts, (however obvious they may be to someone in a similar situation).

Today’s post is for:

  • People who also choose to wear masks indoors even though they are fully vaccinated. This is for solidarity. (If another mom feels like she’s the only masked adult at the library, she’s not alone!)
  • People who genuinely wonder why a vaccinated someone (i.e. me) may choose to continue to wear a face covering. 
  • People who are undecided and curious about different thought processes

If someone thinks a face covering is a political statement, this probably won’t be too helpful for them.

Let’s get on with it. 

This is why I still choose to wear a face covering indoors, even though I’m vaccinated. 

First, I’ll note that I don’t see wearing a face covering as a burden. In my daily life, there is almost no downside. I realize not everyone feels the same way. 

Virus Mutations and Variants

We know that there is a higher risk of Covid-19 spread indoors.

We already know that the coronavirus has mutated. The delta variant is getting a lot of attention, and rightly so. As of today, it seems that the available vaccines are still somewhat effective against this delta variant. (Reference updated August 2021). This is great news! 

However, as long as the virus continues to spread (mostly among the unvaccinated), it can continue to mutate. I do not know if my vaccine will also protect against a future variant. I also don’t know when and if the next variant may appear. So, I’m choosing to be proactive and wear my mask. This is instead of being reactive. I’m choosing not to wait for the following series of events: virus mutation, the next variant spreading, discovery of that variant, then the study of the variant and whether vaccines are effective, and finally guidance from public health officials. For me, that’s too much lag time for something that could make us sick.

On a related note, I don’t want to be part of the mutation problem. Yes, the vaccines are incredibly effective. However, because it’s theoretically possible to transmit a virus while vaccinated (even though unlikely) I’ll wear a mask to limit any potential spread. 

I want to support my children. 

My children are too young to be vaccinated. I still expect them to wear masks when indoors (for reasons stated above). As their parent, I want to model this expectation. I am not going to ask them to do something that I also can’t reasonably do. So, if I’m asking them to wear one, I can don one as well. 

This is part of parenting on a grander scale. 

Aren’t there a lot of things we do in the presence of our children in order to model expected behavior? They might be things we wouldn’t do without our kids watching. Or, they might be things we would do no matter what, but are hyper-aware of setting an example. 

Just for context, here are some things I probably wouldn’t always do if my children weren’t watching, observing, and taking mental notes:

  • Sit down for every meal and turn off screens
  • Wear a hat for sun protection whenever outdoors
  • Clean up after myself before moving on to a new activity

Here are some things we all probably do, but might comment on (or be much more aware of) when we know our children are watching:

  • Hold a door open for someone
  • Treat books (especially library books) with care
  • Say thank you
  • Wear seatbelts

These lists can go on and on, right? And, of course I’m describing an ideal. No one it perfect. So, to me, especially when safety is involved, I’m happy to model the simple action of putting on a mask before going indoors. I know my children are watching. They know I expect them to wear their masks for both their safety and others. We’re all in this together. 

I want to support other parents and young children. 

When I am out and about with my kids, many people are not wearing masks. We can assume (based on CDC guidance) that all these people are also vaccinated. Of course we don’t know if this is true. (Statistically speaking, it’s probably not true at all). With that in mind, I personally feel more at ease when I see others wearing masks. I know that the risk of a masked person spreading something to my child is a bit lower. And, in a time of so much unease and heartbreak, a little reassurance goes a long way. So, even when I am shopping alone, I still wear my mask. I hope to help another parent with young kids also feel just a little more comfortable as we pass each other in an aisle. 

Wearing a mask for the benefit of others is not a new concept.

Many pediatricians, if they have even a whisper of a stuffy nose, will wear a mask when seeing patients. Part of the reason is the literal prevention of viral spread, but it’s also for parental peace of mind. For example, I have seasonal allergies. They’re mild and not a huge deal. However, when I would see healthy infants at work, I’d say something like, “I have a few sniffles today. I’m pretty sure it’s allergies, but just to be on the safe side, I’m going to wear a face mask while examining your baby.” I wouldn’t even be at work if I thought I had something truly dangerous, but not all parents may know this. The goal is for them to feel at ease.

Therefore, we have a two-fold purpose for masks in these situations. First, it helps prevent respiratory droplets from spreading. Secondly, it can help make other people feel more comfortable. 

Final thoughts on being vaccinated and continuing to wear a mask indoors.

The Covid-19 pandemic has been full of tragedy and overwhelm. At this moment in time, the vaccines offer so very much hope. I am hopeful all eligible teens and adults worldwide can be protected as soon as possible. I also hope the vaccines will be proven safe and effective in younger children. In the meantime, we can continue to take reasonable precautions. These precautions may look different from one family to the next. For my family, it means I continue to wear my mask in indoor public places. The benefits of limiting spread (and therefore virus mutation), of setting an example for my own children, and of supporting families in my community far outweigh any inconvenience. 

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