Should you wear masks after the Covid vaccine? A new NIH-backed study hopes to answer that

Nurses collect vaccine doses from a vial while Maryland residents receive their second dose of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine at the Cameron Grove Community Center on March 25, 2021 in Bowie, Maryland.

Win McNamee | Getty images

A new study, supported by the National Institutes of Health, aims to help doctors and government officials find out what people can and cannot do after being vaccinated against the coronavirus, including whether they should still wear masks and social distance .

The study, funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease within NIH, will test the ability of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine to prevent coronavirus infection, limit the amount of virus in the nose and the transmission of inoculated humans to reduce close contacts.

“We hope that within the next five months we can answer the very important question of whether vaccinated people become asymptomatically infected and if they do, they pass the infection on to others,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci said at a press conference Friday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said fully vaccinated people can gather indoors with other fully vaccinated people and some unvaccinated people without any precautions like wearing masks or keeping a distance. According to the CDC’s initial guidelines, vaccinated people should still cover up and socialize in public.

Scientists still don’t know whether immunized people can get asymptomatic infections or act as carriers to spread the virus to others. As more and more Americans are getting vaccinated, this NIH study seeks to answer those questions.

The randomized, controlled study follows 12,000 students ages 18 to 26 at more than 20 American universities for five months. Pre-study sites are open Thursday.

Study participants are randomly divided into two groups. Six thousand students will be immediately vaccinated with Moderna’s dual vaccine, which will be distributed 28 days apart. Six thousand will be vaccinated four months later as the first control group.

The students will wipe their noses daily to test for coronavirus infection, complete electronic questionnaires and provide periodic blood samples.

About 25,000 individuals identified as “close contacts” of the participants will also participate in the study and provide a nasal swab and blood samples. Researchers will use the close contacts to measure the rate of virus transmission from vaccinated individuals.

More than 133 million doses of Covid vaccines have been administered in the US since Thursday morning, according to the CDC.

President Joe Biden on Thursday set a new goal of 200 million vaccinations against the coronavirus in his first 100 days in office.