Over the past month, more than 600,000 Garden State residents have gotten a COVID-19 vaccine and public heath officials are hoping to vaccinate 4.7 million by summer.

But that doesn’t mean we can automatically bid so long to masks and social distancing.

According to Dr. Eddy Bresnitz, the former state epidemiologist and deputy health commissioner who now serves as a COVID-19 medical advisor for the state, face coverings and maintaining social distancing in public settings will still be required for the foreseeable future.

He said even though both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are extremely effective in preventing someone from getting sick, “until we have a high enough proportion of the population who are vaccinated we really don’t know who out there is potentially transmitting disease or at risk of disease.”

He pointed out it’s still unclear how effective the vaccines are, even if they are promoted as being 95% effective.

"We don’t know at this point how long the vaccine will provide that level of protection, what we call durability," he said.

He said this means mask wearing may continue into the summer and beyond.

Bresnitz said even after people get both vaccine shots, they need to keep in mind “by maintaining social distancing and wearing a mask, they are protecting other people from potentially transmitting virus.”

He noted someone can be infected with a virus and be contagious but not feel sick. It's not clear if a vaccinated person can still be a carrier for the virus.

Another reason to keep the mask on: Everyone won't know whether or not someone's been vaccinated.

“Even when people are vaccinated they’re still going to have to follow the directives of public health officials until those directives are no longer required," Bresnitz said.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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