'It will save lives': UNC doctor says of COVID-19 vaccine, but warns masks will still be needed

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- For nine months, our lives have been flipped upside down with masks, stay-at-home orders, and social distance. But could the FDA's emergency use authorization of a COVID-19 vaccine be the relief we've all been waiting for?

"I think it will save lives but it is insufficient alone to get us completely back to the before time," said Dr. David Wohl, UNC Healthcare infectious disease physician.

Dr. Wohl says it will take months before a large chunk of the population gets vaccinated. So he says mandates aren't on the way anytime soon.

THE LATEST: COVID-19 pandemic in North Carolina

"This provides use and access to these vaccines under extraordinary circumstances like now. They're not full FDA approval just yet. So I don't think we can talk about mandating this right now," Wohl said.

When it comes to masks, keep collecting new patterns in colors because Dr. Wohl says they're not going anywhere anytime soon.

"Other countries have really instituted this before COVID-19 to really be safe during flu epidemics and flu season. I think we're just going to have to be more conscientious of infectious diseases out there," he said.

Still, the vaccine continues to breed hope for many industries like tourism.

"Every time we talk to event organizers or meeting planners, that's really going to be the determining factor," said Dennis Edwards, VisitRaleigh CEO and president.

So far, 308 conventions, meetings and sporting events have been canceled in Wake County this year. That's a loss of about $151.2 million. Edwards says the vaccine will breed consumer confidence but it's too early to tell if it will be required to attend large events.

"I think there will be-I know there's a lot of applications being looked at now to be able to have something on your phone to indicate whether or not you've been vaccinated," he said.

Already some airlines plan to require the vaccine to travel. The Australian airline Qantas says it will be a requirement for their passengers. At this point, none of the carriers at RDU are following suit but they're monitoring the recommendations from healthcare experts.

"Something that we want is we want consistency for travelers. We want them to know whether they're flying into RDU and out somewhere else, that they know what they're going to have to do to fly," said Crystal Feldman.

Overall, as the vaccine arrives, experts say they're hopeful we're taking a step in the right direction to get back to our normal lives.

"In the perfect world in six months we're talking about look at how the case numbers have dropped significantly all over the planet," said Dr. Wohl.
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