Some people wonder, “Why should I get a vaccine or wear a mask when it’s still possible to get COVID-19 if I do?”
The answer: Vaccines and masks load the dice in our favor.
Vaccines and masks offer protection. Vaccines lower the odds that you will get COVID, and they dramatically lower the odds that you will get seriously ill or die from it. Masks also offer protection, though not as much as vaccines. Masks rated N95 offer better particle filtration, but pretty much all masks are better than nothing if they fit and if you wear them properly.
Even more importantly, vaccines and masks protect others. This is where masks really shine. Masks lower the odds that infected people will spread the disease. They accomplish this by suppressing the virus-carrying droplets in your breath. People with COVID become contagious before they feel sick, so they often go out in public without knowing that they could infect others. Masks reduce the odds that they’ll spread COVID unawares.
Vaccines are also thought to lower the odds of spreading COVID.
That effect is difficult to measure, so researchers are still testing it to figure out the details.
Thanks especially to my grandparents’ generation, we’ve beaten smallpox, measles, and many others. Smallpox was an absolute monster, and measles is much, much more infectious than even the delta variant of COVID. But thanks to vaccines, smallpox was eradicated in 1977 and measles outbreaks are rare today.
We can do it again, but only if we seize our opportunities to rewrite the odds.