Can you stop wearing a mask after getting the COVID vaccine?

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Wearing double masks, Mark Holton, a Lock Haven student home on break, walks his puppy Bella during a winter storm in Monroe Township, Wyoming County, Pa., Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021. (Mark Moran /The Citizens’ Voice via AP)

(NEXSTAR) – So you’ve received the COVID-19 vaccine, can you take off your mask for good?

According to the physicians NEXSTAR spoke with, the answer is unequivocally no.

“You absolutely cannot [stop wearing a mask],” said Dawn Davis, a physician at Mayo Clinic.

“We want to make sure that you’re not potentially spreading the virus to others and also that you don’t accidentally pick up the virus from someone else.”

Though the vaccine protects you from contracting a severe case of COVID-19, researchers have yet to determine if it also halts transmission, or spreading from person-to-person. Until we know more, public health protocols — wearing masks, social distancing, washing hands — must stay in place.

Additionally, while the vaccines are highly effective at preventing you from contracting the virus, there is still a small chance that the virus could break through your defenses. Current data suggests that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which are the only two available in the U.S., are 95-percent effective at preventing you from contracting COVID.

Lastly, there’s the matter of optics.

Not wearing a mask in public “sends a bad message to people,” said Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease expert and professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.

“It’s discouraging [to see people not wearing masks],” he said, “and who can prove that you’ve been vaccinated?”

To see what else you shouldn’t — and should — do after getting vaccinated, click here.

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