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Will 2021 be the year we can put the masks away, stop social distancing, and put this pandemic behind us?

A health expert weighs in.

TAMPA, Fla. — It has officially been one year since the first case of COVID-19 was diagnosed in the United States. So much has changed in that year.

But, now with two COVID-19 vaccines on our side, could this be the year we put the masks away, stop social distancing, and put this pandemic behind us?

Full access to the vaccine will likely not happen this year unless options change.

“We're not going to get there, I don't think with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines alone,” said Dr. Michael Teng, a virologist with USF Health.

It could be more than a year before everyone has access to the vaccine, with the current set up. But, things could change soon.

“We expect Johnson and Johnson to look for approval emergency use authorization next month," said Dr. Teng. He also predicts that Novavax could be going before the FDA with data early this year as well.

Once the U.S. is able to get mass immunization and mass immunity, mask-wearing could start to go away.

“You know, I do think that mask-wearing will become not as important for the vast majority of us," said Dr. Teng.

Unfortunately, the coronavirus is likely not going anywhere soon though

“It's a really transmissible virus. So I don't think it's completely going to go away," said Dr. Teng. Like the flu, it could come around every year. Dr. Teng says in order for future rounds of the virus to be more mild, we need to get serious about slowing it down, now.

“It really depends on us. How seriously, are we going to take this. How seriously are we as a country, as a community going to be about trying to get transmission rates down?" said Dr. Teng “So that we can get everybody vaccinated. And so we have hardly any and then can go back to a more normal type of existence.”

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