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Masks better than vaccines? CDC director baffles with suggestion face coverings are ‘more guaranteed’ to protect against Covid-19

Masks better than vaccines? CDC director baffles with suggestion face coverings are ‘more guaranteed’ to protect against Covid-19
Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Robert Redfield has raised eyebrows after telling the Senate face masks are a “powerful public health tool” and may even be more effective against Covid-19 than vaccines.

“I’ve said that if we [wore masks] for six, eight, ten, twelve weeks, we’d bring this pandemic under control,” Redfield, who is also on the White House coronavirus task force, told the Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday. 

After calling face coverings the “best defense” against the virus, Redfield then claimed masks are “more guaranteed” to protect from Covid-19 than a vaccine, earning him plenty of pushback on social media.

“I might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against Covid than when I take a Covid vaccine, because the immunogenicity may be 70 percent, and if I don’t get an immune response, the vaccine’s not going to protect me. This face mask will,” he said. 

Redfield added that Americans do not yet have the “personal responsibility that we need” to embrace face masks.

Considering the CDC has reversed course on the face mask recommendation in the past, though, Redfield touting them as the ultimate protection against the virus earned plenty of backlash.

“He should be fired for that comment,” one tweeter wrote, suggesting that he was trying to ensure people get the vaccine but also continue to wear masks.

Former Senate staffer Courtney Shadegg said it appeared to be “an attempt to undo the damage done by saying don’t wear masks in the spring” and that it could encourage some people to actually forgo the vaccine and instead just wear a mask.

“You now have the CDC director all but saying you don't need to get a coronavirus vaccine so long as you wear a filthy, porous mask...Is this incompetence or malevolence?” Federalist co-founder Sean Davis tweeted, highlighting a tweet from the US surgeon general back in March demanding people stop buying masks.

Health officials previously recommended that Americans refrain from buying masks in March, so as not to flood the market and deprive medical professionals of needed supplies. The CDC then recommended that only those who are sick wear face coverings, a decision they flipped in April, when they officially advised everyone wear them when social distancing is not possible.

During a Tuesday town hall, President Donald Trump highlighted the reversal on face mask recommendations by the CDC and other health officials, and argued that “a lot of people think the masks are not good.”

The president has said a vaccine for Covid-19 could be available before election day in November, while Redfield told the Senate one could be released in November or December, but only in a limited capacity. He claimed a vaccine will not be readily available enough for people to return to “regular life” until the second or third quarter of 2021.

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