Study shows masks, social distancing still needed despite increased vaccination rates

(NBC) Mask wearing and physical distancing may be able to prevent increases in cases of COVID-19, even as more people continue to get vaccinated.

Researchers in North Carolina created a mathematical model that looked at multiple factors that play a role in decreasing the spread as vaccines are distributed.

The model projected an increase in infections, hospitalizations, and deaths once safety measures such as mask-wearing and distancing were lifted as vaccines were being rolled out.

However, the number of new infections depended on the percent of the population that was vaccinated, the vaccine’s effectiveness, and adherence to precautions.

The model also showed that it would be better to give a vaccine with a lower efficacy to more people versus a highly effective one to fewer people.

A breakdown of different scenarios of simulated spread in a population of 10 million people:

  • In the worst-case vaccination scenario using a vaccine with 50% efficacy and was given to 25% of adults, there will be an average of 2.2 million new infections when precautions were lifted but under 800,000 new infections if the precautions were maintained
  • In the best-case vaccination scenario using a vaccine with 90% efficacy given to 75% of adults, there will be an average of over 527,000 new infections when precautions were lifted  and over 450,000 new infections when they were maintained.

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