People must be told to keep social distancing and wearing face coverings even after they have had a Covid-19 vaccine, SAGE has warned. The Government’s scientific advisers say that officials should make sure those immunised understand they have to keep following the rules.
They say that people who receive the vaccine should be protected from Covid-19 from two to three weeks after getting the jab. However, they could still potentially spread the illness. Until there is a ‘high degree of coverage’ which protects most of those at risk of death, social distancing must carry on as normal, the scientists said. They added they were fairly confident that ‘some of those who have been vaccinated will show a reduction in personal protective behaviours’. A further surge in infections could follow, they warned, which would be dangerous for others who had not yet been vaccinated.
It said the impact of people who had been vaccinated ignoring these rules was unknown.
The SAGE report, published today, says ‘Indirect evidence from surveys conducted during the current pandemic as well as from previous vaccination campaigns suggest that, in the absence of any mitigation policies, some of those who have been vaccinated will show a reduction in personal protective behaviours. These behaviours are those relating to hand and surface hygiene, use of tissues and face coverings, physical distancing and ventilating rooms. Adherence might decline if people feel less of a need for protection, or the rules and guidance seem less important to them as attention focuses more on the vaccine.’
The SAGE researchers say that they believe people will continue to follow rules after a vaccine if it was explained to them why they needed to. ‘People adhere to Covid-19 protective behaviours in the interests of others (as well as themselves), and in the past have been willing to get vaccinated for others (e.g. during the H1N1 pandemic). One might therefore expect that they will be willing to continue to adhere to rules and guidance once a vaccine is available if they are made aware that this is still necessary to protect others.’