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Mask up: You must still follow 3 W’s even after COVID vaccine, health officials say

More than 4,300 Augusta University caregivers had received their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as of Jan. 26, which is reason to celebrate — but don’t toss those masks just yet.

Health officials warn that even those who have been vaccinated must continue to follow safety recommendations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there is not enough information available to determine when or if they will stop recommending people wear masks and avoid close contact with others to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“Experts need to understand more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide in real-world conditions before making that decision,” according to the CDC website. “Other factors, including how many people get vaccinated and how the virus is spreading in communities, will also affect this decision. We also don’t yet know whether getting a COVID-19 vaccine will prevent you from spreading the virus that causes COVID-19 to other people, even if you don’t get sick yourself.”

According to the latest guidance from Augusta University Health, health professional students and employees who have been fully vaccinated (two doses) and are asymptomatic do not need to quarantine or isolate after a confirmed COVID-19 exposure. This is currently the only guideline change for those who have been vaccinated. The guidance for non-health professional students and employees has not changed.

More than 9,300 eligible employees, students and retirees have received their first dose of the vaccine since clinics began Dec. 17, said Dr. Phillip Coule, vice president and chief medical officer of Augusta University Health. Public vaccination clinics kicked off earlier this week.

“The vaccine’s arrival is certainly showing us a light at the end of the tunnel for this pandemic. However, we’re far from out of the woods yet,” Coule said. “It’s going to be crucial that we all — vaccinated or not — continue to follow the 3 W’s: wear a mask, watch your distance, and wash your hands.”

According to the CDC, experts do not yet know what percentage of people would need to get vaccinated to achieve herd immunity to COVID-19. The CDC and other experts are studying herd immunity and will provide more information as it is available. Find more details in the FAQ.

To protect yourself and others, the CDC recommends:
  • Wear a mask over your nose and mouth
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from others
  • Avoid crowds
  • Avoid poorly ventilated spaces
  • Wash your hands often

Keep up with the latest guidelines on Augusta University’s COVID-19 resource page.

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Written by
Heather Henley

Heather Henley is Director of Scientific Communications at the Immunology Center of Georgia, part of the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University. Contact her at

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Avatar photo Written by Heather Henley

Jagwire is your source for news and stories from Augusta University. Daily updates highlight the many ways students, faculty, staff, researchers and clinicians "bring their A games" in classrooms and clinics on four campuses in Augusta and locations across the state of Georgia.

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