I scheduled my vaccine appointments today! The first appointment for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is on January 24 and the follow-up is on February 14, 2021. Of course with various issues cropping up in administering vaccines, scheduling an appointment and actually getting a vaccine can be two different things. Let’s hope everything goes as scheduled. So now I’m beginning to think about traveling again.

But vaccines are no guarantee against getting sick with Covid-19 disease because they are not 100% effective. Effectiveness is defined as not getting sick with COVID-19. If 100 vaccinated people are exposed to a virus and 50 of them subsequently develop symptoms, that vaccine is 50% effective.

With the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine in December 2020 found that protection doesn’t start until 12 days after the first shot and that it reaches 52% effectiveness a few weeks later. A week after the second vaccination, the effectiveness rate tops out at 95%.  That means one out of every 20 people who get this vaccine could still get moderate to severe infection. Furthermore, as the virus mutates, current vaccines may loose some, hopefully not all, of their effectiveness on newer strains.

An important issue that remains unsettled with COVID-19 vaccines is whether you might still have an asymptomatic infection despite immunization but still be able to infect others. Before approving the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, the FDA asked the vaccine manufacturers to demonstrate that their products protect people from COVID-19 symptoms. It didn’t ask if the vaccines stop people who’ve been vaccinated from spreading the virus to others.  The answer is probably no, and that may be proved in the not too distant future.

For travel after being vaccinated, other than the impractical steps of always remaining more than six feet apart and constantly washing or sanitizing hands, wearing a mask is the most effective step we can take to further reduce the likelihood of contracting a SARS-CoV-2 infection that might infect others or could lead to serious illness for ourselves.

What Are The Best Types Of Masks?

There are essentially three types of face masks, cloth masks, surgical masks, and N95 masks. Here is information on the different types arranged in ascending order of protection provided.

Cloth Masks

Cloth masks are inexpensive and in abundant supply. You can even make them yourself. A cloth mask is intended to trap droplets that are released when the wearer talks, coughs or sneezes. These masks provide the least protection for the wearer but are more effective at protecting others.

Typical cloth face mask.

You can improvise a cloth face mask from an eye mask found in the amenity kits in first, business or premium economy.

An eye mask from an amenity kit (Finnair business class) could double as a face mask.

To increase the effectiveness of a cloth mask, wear two at once. One advantage of cloth masks is they look nicer and be decorated or used to display a message.

Surgical Masks

Also called a medical mask, a surgical mask is a loose-fitting disposable mask that protects the wearer’s nose and mouth from contact with droplets, splashes and sprays that may contain germs. A surgical mask also filters out large particles in the ambient environment. These masks are readily available online, stocked in many types of stores, and inexpensive

Compared to cloth masks, surgical masks do a better job of reducing exposure to the saliva and respiratory secretions of the mask wearer. Disposable surgical masks also provide a higher level of protection for wearers compared to cloth masks.

Surgical type face mask

N95 Masks

The best face masks are the N95 masks.  Actually a type of respirator, an N95 mask offers more protection than a surgical mask does because it can filter out both large and small particles when the wearer inhales. As the name indicates, the mask is designed to block 95% of very small particles.

Some N95 masks, and even some cloth masks, have one-way valves that make them easier to breathe through. But because the valve releases unfiltered air when the wearer breathes out, this type of mask doesn’t prevent  spreading the virus.  For this reason, some places have banned them.

I recently received a package of N95 masks.  HT:  View From The Wing



I bought these N95 masks online from MSC Industrial Supply. The package of 20 cost $25 plus shipping. This item sells fast but may it or be available here. Other sources are here and here.

KN95 masks are essentially the same as N95s except the KN95 mask is secured on the ears rather than having straps that wrap around the head.

Note: N95 and KN95 masks should not be confused with the mask some refer to as the N69 mask. N69 masks are not approved for Covid-19 safety😂 .

Las Vegas Councilwoman Michele Fiore and her “N69” mask.

Final Thoughts

Traveling in a way that protects ourselves and others involves more than getting a vaccine. Once the vaccine becomes fully effective after two shots, it is still possible to get seriously ill from the virus and it may be possible to spread the virus to others. In situations where coming into close contact with others is unavoidable, I plan to wear a N95 mask. To conserve my supply of N95 masks, I’ll wear a disposable surgical mask in other situations and maybe keep a cloth mask or two handy for emergencies. I also plan to use my portable UVC light wand for disinfecting uneven surfaces and electronics.

What are your strategies for staying safe when you travel?


Covid-19: How Much Protection Do Face Masks Offer

N95 Respirators, Surgical Masks, And Cloth Masks

The Most Effective Masks Against The New Covid Strain: Experts

Experts Call For Better Masks As Pandemic Rolls On