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1 in 4 people will stop wearing a mask after being vaccinated: Study

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Dr. Gustavo Ferrer, President of Aventura Pulmonary Institute, joins Yahoo Finance's Kristin Myers to break down the latest coronavirus developments.

Video Transcript

KRISTIN MYERS: Welcome back to Yahoo Finance Live. Let's talk about the coronavirus pandemic. We're seeing case counts continue to fall as vaccinations are picking up speed, while many doctors and public health officials are concerned about a potential spike as the general public gets complacent. We're joined now by Dr. Gustavo Ferrer, president of the Aventura Pulmonary Institute.

So doctor, there was an Axios-Ipsos poll that showed that there is a really wide spread here when people think we can go back to having in-person gatherings, this return to normalcy. So I wanted to pretty much put that to you-- that question to you. When can we return to normal? When can we have those in-person gatherings again?

DR. GUSTAVO FERRER: I think it's going to take some time. I think that normality is going to remain abnormal for months and probably years. You know, we are we're seeing the number of cases going down. We see vaccination going up.

But we also see the population relaxing the rules. And these are the times when we see this virus is overall the one that's coming from the UK spiking. And we need to remain vigilant with that.

KRISTIN MYERS: Now, I want to do a little bit of myth busting on the vaccine, because I think some folks think that once they get the vaccine, that they don't have to worry about the virus anymore. So if you get the vaccine, is it safe to return to your life as normal?

DR. GUSTAVO FERRER: The answer to that-- the short answer is no. We do not have evidence that the vaccine actually stops the transmission of the virus. It was not tested for that, the vaccine. What it does, the evidence that we have is actually it decreases the severity of the illness, meaning you can get infected and you will get infected, but you are not going to develop a severe pneumonia that will cost your life. It is going to be a less severe case of infection process.

And that is the danger that we see here. Most people think that they can go, after getting vaccinated, back to normality. And that is dangerous, because we're still going to be carrying the viruses in our noses, and we're going to be transferring those viruses to other people that are going to be susceptible. And they can get severe pneumonia.

KRISTIN MYERS: So then, to that point-- because we have surveys that show that as much as 25%, about a quarter of folks, say that they are going to stop wearing their mask once they get the vaccine. So considering the fact that having the vaccine doesn't mean you can't stop-- that you won't stop spreading the virus, if we do have folks that are vaccinated and they stop wearing their masks, then what happens then to the case counts? I mean, I imagine it will spike, but perhaps not as severely as if folks were not vaccinated. Is that correct?

DR. GUSTAVO FERRER: Well, the answer to that is going to have to two folds. Number one, we have to keep in mind that we're seeing strains coming from South Africa, from the UK that they are highly contagious. There is some evidence that the UK strength of the virus may respond to the vaccine that we have today, but it's not conclusive evidence. So we're going to see the answer to that months from today, when we get a massive number of people vaccinated, and we're going to see if it truly responds or no, or evidence research emerge after that.

That's issue number one. Issue number two, provided that the vaccine remains as effective for the strength of the virus that we have circulating today, if we stop using masks, and in reality, we're carrying the viruses-- just like what happens with influenza, influenza vaccine falls within the same predicament-- when we get a vaccine, we are preventing the severe cases of influenza. We are not stopping the transmission.

But there will be susceptible people that will develop severe infections and severe pneumonia. And we know that this virus spreads like wildfire everywhere. And if we lower our guards, we're going to see spike after spike of the virus again.

KRISTIN MYERS: What are your projections, then, for some of the warmer months-- let's say March and beyond? You know, despite the fact that folks are getting vaccinated, there's pandemic fatigue. They are tired of wearing a mask. They're tired of not seeing their friends and family.

We do have some projections out from IHME that essentially say that there's going to be a bit of a spike, a bit of a resurgence. Are you also anticipating that? Or are your fellow co-workers that are, you know, in hospitals and health care centers also anticipating that March, April, May is going to bring back another large spike?

DR. GUSTAVO FERRER: Unfortunately, we are. Back in the same time last year-- March, April-- we saw the spike, and we all were hoping that by the summer we're going to see the number of cases going down. And in the warmer part of the country, we saw a significant spike that happened right here in Florida. It is the time where we had the highest mortality in the pandemic last year.

So we know that that can happen. We know that the warmer temperature may not stop this virus. It already happened in 2020. So we are cautiously optimistic about the future. We want to remain vigilant about the research and things that they're coming up, and other alternatives that we may be able to use, like the case of nasal sprays and some of the things that are coming to the market that may help us cut down the number of patients that get infected or transmit the viruses.

KRISTIN MYERS: This is such an important reminder, because, as I said, I think so many folks think that once they get the vaccine, that this is done and dusted for them, and that they don't have to worry about it anymore. So a very good reminder here that that is not the case. Dr. Gustavo Ferrer, President of the Aventura Pulmonary Institute, thank you so much for joining us today.

DR. GUSTAVO FERRER: Thank you for having me.