Is it safe for vaccinated people to go maskless?

In the US, the Centers for Disease Control announced that it’s safe for people who’ve been fully vaccinated to dance through the world naked–

Sorry. Not naked. Maskless. Which after a year and more of pandemic feels like the same thing. So this might be a good time to ask, What the hell’s going on? 

Let’s turn to an article in the Conversation that breaks it down manageably. It’s not a long article or a difficult one, and it’s well worth reading, because I’m going to boil it down until all that’s left is a thick syrup.

First, the vaccines we have for Covid are more effective than anyone had the right to expect. Much more effective. But they–or at least most of them–don’t provide sterilizing immunity. (There’s a chance one does but we’re not there yet.) 

To translate that, they don’t stop the virus from entering our systems, they only stop them from getting us sick. That’s less than ideal because it leaves open the possibility that we can pass on the disease.

Irrelevant photo: cornflowers

At the moment, it looks like the vaccines make fully vaccinated people less likely to spread the disease, but the numbers aren’t in yet. They’re outside, running around in the wet grass and refusing to come in for dinner. Or supper. Or whatever you call that meal. And Covid numbers are particularly hard to call home. It has to do with the disease’s habit of spreading while people don’t have symptoms.

Never mind that, though. What we need to know is that it’s hard to make those numbers behave and that scientists are working on it and that dinner’s going to be cold. Nothing’s certain, but a couple of studies hint at fully vaccinated being able to spread the disease–which means they’re able to spread new, more infectious variants. 

That is highly inconvenient but it doesn’t mean that vaccination’s pointless. Vaccination protects the vaccinated person, and it may mean they’re less likely to spread the disease. Less likely isn’t the same thing as incapable of, but it’s an improvement over what we had at this time last year.

The article (remember the article?) ends by saying, “The . . . relaxed guidelines on masking are meant to reassure vaccinated people that they are safe from serious illness. And they are. But the picture is less clear-cut for the unvaccinated who interact with them. Until near herd immunity against COVID-19 is achieved, and clear evidence accumulates that vaccinated people do not spread the virus, I and many epidemiologists believe it is better to avoid situations where there are chances to get infected. Vaccination coupled with continued masking and social distancing is still an effective way to stay safer.”

Boiled down to a thick syrup, that says masks still make sense. 


An update on viruses and human DNA

A study published in the Journal of Virology found no evidence that Covid integrates its genetic material into human DNA. An earlier study had found it doing that in petri dishes, but in real life–

Okay, think of this as computer dating. You exchange a few messages with someone, maybe you have a Zoom date. You establish that they can hold a coherent conversation and that they’re not a cat (that’s either good or bad, depending on who you are and what your preferences happen to be). Then you meet and think, I can’t spend an hour with this person, never mind my life. 

That’s what it was like for the Covid virus. In the petri dish, mingling genetic materials looked like a good idea. In person though? 


Some viruses do fall in love with us, and human DNA is a palimpsest of useless bits of genetic material left behind by bugs we danced a couple of numbers with back–oh, it might’ve been as early as when life was simple and we still had hairy bodies. The bits of genetic code don’t make us sick. They don’t make us better. They just sit there remembering old times.

That integration is called a chimeric event. And a palimpsest is something with layers of meaning, buried history, like a canvas that’s been painted over but the old brushwork is still there, under the surface. That bit of not particularly useful knowledge comes to us courtesy of the Cambridge Dictionary.

For anyone who’s spooked by the idea that MRNA vaccines might integrate themselves into our DNA, this new study should be good news: Covid doesn’t seem to love us. But for anyone trying to figure out why some people test positive for Covid long after they’ve gotten rid of the infection, it may not be good news. Chimeric events had been suggested as an explanation. Take that away and we’re left with the possibility that they might be getting reinfected and the question of whether they continue to be infectious.


How to vaccinate 108% of your population

The island of Nauru has injected 108% of its adult population with at least one dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

How’d they do that? They included foreign visitors, coming up with a total of  7,392 people. The island has been free of the virus, but every visitor brought the risk of an outbreak, so this comes as a real relief.


Online gamers researching Covid

Thanks to game designers embedding a citizen science project inside a game called EVE online, players are helping researchers learn about Covid and the immune system. The idea is to look at the blood cells of people who have Covid and eventually sort out why some people get severe cases and how Covid makes us sick. 

Thousands of gamers have been looking for patterns in groups of cells and have fed 120 million data submissions into Project Discovery. That amounts to decades of data analysis, and each submission also teaches the program to learn the process so that it can be automated in the future. 

The game’s popular, something I can prove by telling you that I’ve never heard of it.

32 thoughts on “Is it safe for vaccinated people to go maskless?

    • I’d love to have more information on that, but as far as I know the 5% are likely, but not guaranteed, to get less sick. There are hints that they’ll have a lower viral load and so be less contagious–which is not the same as not contagious at all, of course. It’s that whole problem of trying to round up the numbers in a situation where contact tracing is less effective than we’d like and the virus spreads at a time when people don’t know they have it. If anyone has more definitive information on that, I haven’t been able to find it.


  1. Masked nudist colonies sounds appealing–of course they often are “naturists” who prefer running around outside in the wet grass and might grab a few of those elusive numbers. Thank you for refining that article–it helps. Flo and I and our “bubble” of completely vaccinated people are continuing to mask for any indoor settings with others outside of our group—too many pre-existing conditions to take extra risks! Let us (just to keep things messy) recall that in Scotland they say “come in for tea/high tea” which doesn’t mean bone china and cucumber sandwiches but more like beans on toast or fish and chips or haggis (there are even vegan/vegetarian haggises–haggi?) eaten in the evening. Dinner often was at noon; supper might just be soup just before bed. Then itnsome parts (Highlands/ Islands) people might even say “Come to kale” even if the meal doesn’t include any kale. I love variety in language (except where Covid is concerned. Thanks for your always enjoyable blogs.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ellen, well said and fun to read👍 Although CDC gave a new recommendations to the people full vaccinated, I still plan to wear mask indoor, to be on the safe side. It is understandable that some people have doubts about mRNA vaccine since it is new, but as CDC states, “mRNA never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA (genetic material) is kept. The cell breaks down and gets rid of the mRNA soon after it is finished using the instructions.” I am very happy to be full vaccinated.

    Liked by 1 person

    • A lot of the fear, I think, is because the technology’s new, but a lot of it is also because so much misinformation if being pumped out. Apparently people are being told the vaccines will make them magnetic (!!) or infertile or who knows what else. My friend’s son misunderstood and thought they were saying it would turn people into turtles and he announced that they were ridiculous. There’d be millions of turtles around if that were true.

      I’m delighted to be fully vaccinated too–it’s a huge relief. And I am not a turtle–at least not yet.

      Liked by 2 people

    • If I call anything tea, no one knows what I’m talking about. A cup of tea and a scone? A meal? A three-tiered cake stand that Americans are convinced are in everyday use in Britain? Unless I’m talking about a liquid, I’m barred from using the word.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. A lot of my friends/acquaintances and I are going to continue to wear masks in public indoor places. At our age there is no re4adon to take more risks.

    last nights edition of the BBC America news detailed the rift between Dominic Cummings and BoJo. Sad to see a man lose his mind – I mean brain – so publicly. No mention of his extraneous travels around the countryside during lockdown. But refreshing to hear some ignorant SOB admit that he never should have been in charge of anything because he was an ignorant SOB. Not happening here so far.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That business about him being an ignorant SOB is where, finally, I found some common ground with him. A lot of what he said (and I’m relying on newspaper digests of 7 hours of testimony), though, does match what could be observed from the outside. He’s still an ignorant SOB, but at the moment he’s spilling the beans about the incompetents he did so much to help into office, so I’m enjoying the show.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes…this is what I had wondered all along. I always understood the vaccines would help someone from becoming ill….but there is no magic forcefield that protects a person from being a vehicle of the virus from one surface or person to another who is not vaccinated.

    I am feeling so much less anxious at the moment about the virus here in the UK. But I am heartbroken by the distressing scenes that played out in India and other lands. I

    Liked by 1 person

    • The vaccines seem–emphasis on seem still–to reduce the chances of transmission but not eliminate it. So we’re inching forward. But yes, what’s happening in India, in Brazil (still, I think, although it’s dropped out of the news lately) is horrible and makes me wonder, sometimes, if the world will ever find its way out of this mess.


  5. I think it is too soon yet. I was listening to an interview on the World Service last night, as I was cooking tea, of two people in the US who had caught covid after 2 doses of vaccine. They said they had continued to be careful but still got sick – one said it was a case of the “sniffles” but the other said she was ill for 5 days and trouble breathing at one point. Neither ended up in hospital or died.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We do need to remember that with a 95% effective vaccine, 5% is left over. Even I can manage that. I think those would could as a mild and a moderate case, although if I had the second one moderate might not be the word I’d use.

      I agree: It’s too early.

      Liked by 1 person

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