POLITICS
17/09/2020 3:07 AM AEST | Updated 18/09/2020 7:02 AM AEST

CDC Director: Masks Are 'The Most Important, Powerful Public Health Tool We Have'

Robert Redfield speculated that masks may even be more effective than a COVID-19 vaccine, particularly for people who don't respond to a vaccine.

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention again urged Americans to wear face masks as much as possible and stressed their effectiveness in containing the spread of the coronavirus, in contrast to President Donald Trump’s lax attitude toward masks.

“These face masks are the most important, powerful public health tool we have, and I will continue to appeal for all Americans, all individuals in our country, to embrace these face coverings. I have said if we did it for six, eight, 10, 12 weeks, we would bring this pandemic under control,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said during a Senate hearing on Wednesday. “We have clear scientific evidence they work and they are our best defense.”

Redfield went on to speculate that masks may even be more effective than a COVID-19 vaccine, particularly for people who don’t respond to a vaccine. 

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

Redfield also addressed the progress of vaccine development. The Trump administration has pushed to have a vaccine widely available by January, if not sooner. But questions have mounted on whether administration officials might rush through approval of a vaccine without proper safety and efficacy protocols in order to benefit Trump’s reelection chances in November. 

Earlier on Wednesday, the CDC and other federal health officials rolled out a plan for distributing COVID-19 vaccines free of charge for all Americans, possibly beginning as soon as later this year.

Each person would need two doses, three to four weeks apart. Anticipating initial shortages, officials would prioritize the vaccine for essential workers and people in high-risk groups, before expanding access to everyone.

In his testimony, Redfield appeared more cautious, saying that a vaccine would be available in “very limited supply” sometime between November and December. But for “the general American public,” he told senators, the vaccine would be available probably in the second or third quarter of 2021.

Contrary to Redfield’s advice, Trump rarely wears masks in public and mocks those who do, including Democratic opponent Joe Biden. He frequently questions the effectiveness of masks, despite the overwhelming scientific evidence that wearing them helps contain the spread of COVID-19.

Trump and his supporters have also defied public health guidance by holding crowded campaign rallies, like an indoor event in Las Vegas on Sunday, where few attendees were seen wearing masks.


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