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When we’ll know if Covid-19 vaccines stop transmission, once and for all

This week, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put out interim public health recommendations for people who have been vaccinated against Covid-19. They were a welcome relief. Activities such as visiting with a low-risk, unvaccinated household indoors without masks are now back on the table.

While the health agency struck a cautiously optimistic note, it stressed a vaccination doesn’t mean abandoning all Covid safety measures (large gatherings and international traveling are still ill-advised). The main reason is because scientists continue to grapple with the question of whether vaccines can stop transmission. “It’s complicated a statistical question, but provided there are the resources I’d expect it’d be possible to get an answer in the next few months,” says Luke Davis, an epidemiologist and pulmonologist at the Yale School of Public Health.

There are a lot of reasons to think that vaccinated people shouldn’t be able to pass on the virus to others. In the past, vaccines have been instrumental in slowing the spread of other infectious diseases. “I can’t imagine how the vaccine would prevent symptomatic infection at the efficacies that [companies] reported and have no impact on transmission,” Matthew Woodruff, an immunologist at Emory University, told Quartz previously.

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