“It’s not binary,” begins Prof. Philippe Amouyel, epidemiologist at Lille University Hospital. For him, the obligation to wear a mask in all public places cannot turn into the complete absence of a mask.

Benjamin Davido, infectious disease specialist at AP-HP, agrees. The two doctors cite the example of the United States, which allowed vaccinated people to remove the mask outdoors: for them, we must take into account the different risks and assess according to the circumstances.

Read also: Infection or vaccination, the same immunity?

Empower citizens

“The risk of getting contaminated outdoors is lower than indoors,” recalls Professor Amouyel. “With a little common sense, if you are five feet away from people, there is wind, rain… the mask is not necessary. But on a terrace, without distancing, you have to ask yourself the question of ventilation and contamination, ”explains the epidemiologist.

For him, we must let each person determine whether the situation in which they find themselves presents a risk of contamination. “People have to understand the rule, if they don’t understand it, it’s over,” he adds.

The challenge of vaccines

When collective immunity reaches a satisfactory stage, these two specialists believe that the wearing of the mask can be left to the appreciation of each person. A population can achieve collective immunity when a certain percentage of its population has antibodies to a virus, through infection or vaccination.

Against the initial strain of Covid, a population would achieve collective immunity from around 60% of people vaccinated. Against the English variant, it would have to rise to 75%, or even 80%. And against the Indian variant, data is still lacking, but “we know that it is more contagious so we need even more people vaccinated”, explains Professor Amouyel.

Remove the mask in stages

In France, the number of people fully vaccinated against Covid reached 17.72% on May 31. And we must also take into account the time needed from the injection for the vaccine to be effective, about two weeks depending on the vaccine.

“In view of what other countries are experimenting with, it would seem reasonable to me to remove the mask at the stage where 50% of the population has received a dose, for those vaccinated outdoors,” says Benjamin Davido. “We have to go through stages, otherwise we will say to ourselves that this is it, it’s over. “

A tool to fight other epidemics

For these two specialists, wearing the mask should be reused in the future. The two doctors note that wearing a mask, associated with other barrier measures, had a very strong impact on other winter epidemics, particularly the flu.

According to Philippe Amouyel, the combination of the mask and the vaccination will be useful in the fight against the next flu epidemic, especially in the event of a new shortage of vaccines. “There must have been only 30 to 40% of the fragile population who got vaccinated against the flu. With the shortage, many people who usually get vaccinated did not. “

If the laboratories continue to produce the vaccine against the Covid during the next influenza epidemic, a new shortage is possible. “The means to fight would be to vaccinate, and put the mask back on in certain circumstances, regardless of the Covid”, specifies- he does. The use of the mask in European and American societies should then increasingly resemble that of Asian societies, according to Professor Amouyel and Dr Davido.