Doctors say we might be able to ditch masks early next year, but not right now

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FILE – A sign advises shoppers to wear masks outside of a story Monday, July 19, 2021, in the Fairfax district of Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

INDIANAPOLIS — With kids ages 5 to 11 able to get vaccinated, the debate over mask-wearing has come up again now that that age group can be protected.

“It is great that we are starting but we’ve got a long way to go,” Shandy Dearth, Director of Center for Public Health Practice at Fairbanks School of Public Health, said.

Health officials and doctors say the time to take off our masks is coming but it’s not right now.

“We just don’t have enough people vaccinated here in the state so we’re probably going to see cases here for a while, so we need to do our part to keep it down as best as we can,” Dearth said.

The main reason is that pediatric vaccinations just began last week. Doctors say they don’t consider anyone fully vaccinated until two weeks after their second shot.

“We still have just barely begun to vaccinate children and so it’s going to take actually several weeks for many kids to not only received the first dose which they’ve been doing now for the last week or so but really to get through the two doses of the vaccine series,” Brian Dixon, Director of Public Health Informatics at the Regenstrief Institute, said.

Dixon used Denmark as an example. The country has roughly the same population as Indiana and has dropped most of their restrictions. They have less than 100 people hospitalized with COVID-18; however, 90 percent of the countries adults are fully vaccinated and Indiana is no where near that.

“Based on my estimation I think that we could be to that point by the end of January or early February,“ Dixon said on the need to wear masks. “So I think it will happen towards the end of the winter season but we’re not quite there yet.”

Pediatrician, Dr. Megan Caccio, at Johnson Memorial Health says the masks are good to keep around right now as they protect kids from other respiratory diseases.

“We have to pull the Band-Aid off at some point,” Dr. Caccio said. “If we could at least get through the holidays that would’ve been ideal, so yes, probably the first of the year and then we’re just going to have to see.”

However, doctors emphasize that vaccinations and the spread of the virus will be big factors in determining whether or not we should get rid of the masks.

“I don’t have a crystal ball to give you an exact date, but I’d like to get through the vaccinations for the 5 to 11,” Shandy Dearth said. “Then hopefully the beginning of February we can reassess where we are.”

All the doctors and health officials we talked to today said kids and adults alike getting vaccinated is the quickest way to get back to normal and ditch the masks.

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