The director of the US Centers for Disease Control says face masks could be a more surefire way of protecting oneself against COVID-19 than a vaccine that may become available later this year.
Speaking to a House subcommittee Wednesday, Dr. Robert Redfield explained that a forthcoming vaccine may only protect a portion of people injected with it, and urged residents to make mask-wearing a habit.
“I would even go so far as to say this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take a COVID vaccine,” Redfield said.
“Because the immunogenicity may be 70%, and if I don’t get an immune response the vaccine’s not going to protect me. But this face mask will.”
Immunogenicity refers to the vaccine’s ability to provoke an immune response in people who take it, thereby providing immunity to a virus.
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He estimated the first vaccines may be available by November or December 2020, but supply at first will be very limited and officials will need to prioritize who gets it, with first responders and people with co-morbidities at the top of the list.
He doesn’t expect a vaccine to be available for US general public before Summer 2021.
But even after a vaccine is ready, Redfield touted face masks as “the most important, powerful public health tool we have.”
By contrast, BC Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said masks are at the end of a “hierarchy of controls,” which include measures such as physical distancing and hand-washing.
“There is a role for masks, but they are just one of the layers of protection that we have, and we’re building in many layers,” she said last month while explaining her decision not to make face masks mandatory while children are sitting in class.