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Food, Health & Fitness

WILL YOU TAKE YOUR MASK OFF?

You may now walk outdoors without a mask! The announcement of the voluntary wearing of face masks in outdoor settings provided the public’s adherence to minimum health protocols drew mixed reactions—and for good reasons. With the vaccination rate of the country at a little over 66%, many Filipinos have moved past vaccines. For them, boosters are no longer necessary after getting the primary vaccines. This is an opinion piece. To know more about your medical options, please consult a doctor, or visit a health center near you.

The effectiveness of vaccines lasts for at least six months, hence the need for booster shots. With wearing masks becoming voluntary in outdoor settings, we are strategically moving away from the benefits that the universal masking mandate can offer. Senior citizens and immunocompromised individuals are still encouraged to wear masks at all times. The operative word there is “encouraged,” as opposed to “mandatory,” which has been the case in the country for two years now.

But are we ready to go off-mask?

mask

Yes. The answer, however, is not that simple. Transitioning to the voluntary wearing of masks could signify that the country is already changing its strategies to prevent the further spread of the COVID-19 virus. Some minimum health protocols may no longer be as effective as they were when the pandemic started. However, do not confuse this recent update as a sign that we have already beaten the virus. It only implies that other measures may no longer be effective in COVID-19 management and that other measures are logically more effective when applied to a grander scheme of things.

The move to let loose on the universal masking mandate is a long-time coming endeavor, likely because of the slowing down of our vaccination drive. As mentioned, many Filipinos no longer see the need to complete their booster shots or even their primary. Since vaccines’ efficacy will eventually wane, this further amplifies the need to strengthen our immunity wall if we ever want to remove wearing masks completely—with the ultimate goal of eliminating COVID-19.

Immunity wall as our main gun.

An immunity wall is a population’s aggregate resilience to infection. It could weaken when the population’s immunity decreases or when a new variant spreads to infect more people regardless of vaccination status. Perhaps, there is a need to remind the public that vaccines are not meant to eradicate the virus. Its goal, which vaccines effectively perform, is to prevent severe cases that could lead to hospitalization or, worse, death.

Fully vaccinated or not, we could still catch the virus. And with new and stronger variants, masked or no mask, we could still be vulnerable to infections. There is still no cure for COVID-19. Now that we can expect the public to embrace the voluntary wearing of masks in outdoor and non-crowded places, we are responsible for our own health and safety. Take this move as a positive sign for our country, but as always, err on the side of caution.

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