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Why did CDC director say masks are more of a guarantee against COVID-19 than a vaccine?

Dr. Robert Redfield says COVID-19 vaccine not expected to be 100% effective

The director of the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention caught many people off guard when he said masks are more of a guarantee in the fight against the coronavirus (COVID-19) than a vaccine would be.

“I might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID-19 than when I take a COVID-19 vaccine,” Dr. Robert Redfield said.

What exactly did Redfield mean when he said that? He was referring to the fact that experts don’t expect the COVID-19 vaccine to be 100% effective. Few vaccines are even close to that level, which means not everyone who gets vaccinated will be protected from the virus.

The Food and Drug Administration has said any coronavirus vaccine must be at least 50% effective to be approved. Experts, including Redfield and Dr. Anthony Fauci, hope the vaccine will be at least 70% effective.

That means if 100 people receive the vaccine, it would generate a protective response in at least 70 people -- enough to prevent them from getting COVID-19 if they were exposed.

“The immunogenicity may be 70%, and if I don’t get an immune response, the vaccine is not going to protect me,” Redfield said. “This face mask will.”

The other 30 people wouldn’t generate enough response to the vaccine to become completely protected, though it’s possible the vaccine would still reduce the severity of the disease in those people, making them less likely to be hospitalized, suffer complications or die.

How cold a mask be more of a guarantee? Numerous studies have found that wearing a mask is at least some level of protection against the coronavirus. The level of protection varies depending on the type of mask, but experts agree 100% of people who wear masks correctly receive some benefit.

“We have clear scientific evidence they work and are our best defense,” Redfield said. “If we did it for six, eight, 10, 12 weeks, we’d bring this pandemic under control.”

Experts have also learned masks are most effective at protecting other people from the wearer, which means everyone needs to work together to protect each other.


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