The Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr Robert Redfield, has claimed that masks offer more certain protection against the coronavirus than vaccines will – at least for the immediate future.
“I could say that this face mask is safer to protect me against covid than when I’m taking a vaccine,” Dr. Redfield said during his testimony Wednesday before a Senate subcommittee.
He pointed out that there was more research to clearly show that the masks work to block the spread of infectious particles, while the vaccines are still being tested and their true effectiveness will not be entirely clear until large. groups of people will not have been dosed.
Dr Redfield’s comments are part of the same testimony in which he and other officials laid out a plan to give all Americans free coronavirus vaccines, distributing them to the general public in January.
CDC director Dr Robert Redfield said on Wednesday that the masks offer more ‘guaranteed’ protection against the coronavirus than potential vaccines, because there is more scientific evidence for their effectiveness than yet unproven injections.
But the CDC chief recalled the optimism of the “manual” and of Trump himself, believing that vaccines will not be widely available to Americans until the spring or summer of next year.
Trump continues to insist that a vaccine is only “a few weeks away” while hinting that he hopes the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will approve one before the Nov. 3 election.
The apparent endorsement by the CDC director of the masks and his disappointing view of vaccines was typical of his tense day in the Senate on Wednesday.
While trying to temper expectations set by the “handbook” for the distribution of coronavirus vaccines published by his agency in collaboration with other health agencies and the Department of Defense, Dr Redfield has also had to resist criticism .
The CDC’s action plan assumes that tens of millions of doses of a vaccine will be available to be sent free to Americans – not just frontline workers – by January 2021.
In turn, that assumes approval of a shot by the end of next month.
Health experts, including Dr Redfield, said it was possible, but unlikely.
Senator Jeff Merkley, a Democrat from Oregon, accused the CDC of being politically motivated to create a vaccine development and release schedule that fits President Trump’s re-election campaign.
Dr Redfield faced accusations his agency had bowed to pressure from the Trump administration, which is pushing for a vaccine to be ready on election day.
“It escapes no one that you deliberately ask [plans to have states start administering vaccines] two days before the election, ”Merkley said, asking Dr. Redfield who in the White House had asked him to do so.
When Redfield responded that “no one” did, Merkley retorted that he “influenced the election,” asking “what had happened to the scientific decisions leading up,” and said the vaccine’s unlikely timeline “undermines [the CDC’s] credibility.’
Dr Redfield defended his agency, saying the timeline had been “independently developed by our subject matter experts.”
But he also said that a vaccine would likely not be widely available until much later than the “playbook” suggested.
He also tempered expectations about the effectiveness of a potential vaccine and warned that, in the grand scheme of things, the world really has little data on what protective vaccines will deliver.
“Masks are the most powerful and important public health tool we have,” he said.
“We have clear scientific evidence that they work and that they are our best defense.
For a vaccine, on the other hand, “the immunogenicity can be 70 percent, and if I don’t get an immune response, the vaccine may not protect me,” Dr Redfield said.
The FDA has set the bar for a vaccine it would consider approving at 50% effectiveness.
But that means it can only prevent infection in half of those who get vaccinated.
In early trials, the three main vaccine candidates – AstraZeneca, Moderna and Pfizer – all elicited some antibody production in trial participants.
What remains unknown is the importance of an immune response in providing protection, and how long that shield might last.
The masks are simpler and their effects are clearer. Research has suggested that wearing a face mask reduces your risk of contracting COVID-19 by up to 65%.
They are also believed to reduce the amount of potentially infectious particles a person can expel into the air by about a third.