The new CDC COVID face mask policy allowing fully vaccinated Americans to generally go maskless follows the science, but I ask if it makes us less safe because it requires no vaccination verification.
The Biden Administration has repeatedly said they would follow the face mask science when making decisions about wearing masks. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that all Americans must continue to wear masks in specific locations. These include planes, public transportation and hospitals. However, face mask science says fully vaccinated people can mostly resume their normal lives. Those who aren’t vaccinated must continue to wear face masks.
The CDC followed the science concerning face masks, but is that enough? Vaccinated Americans should be free to enjoy a more normal life. Will they be safer under the new CDC guidelines?
When considering this question, I was reminded of Dr. Jayatri Das’ interview of Dr. Paul Offit. Dr. Das is the Franklin Institute’s Chief Bioscientist. Dr. Offit is a member of the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Dr. Offit said that he would rather be an unvaccinated person in the midst of fully vaccinated people, than a vaccinated person amid a group of unvaccinated people. That may sound counterintuitive, but it’s not.
To be clear, you are fully vaccinated two weeks after you’ve received your second dose of a two-dose vaccine or after the one dose of a single dose vaccine.
COVID-19 vaccines are effective in preventing infections and in reducing the virus’ severity if a fully vaccinated person contracts the disease.
We know that fully vaccinated people are at less risk of spreading COVID-19. We also know that the vaccines effectively prevent COVID-19 infection. In the few instances when a vaccinated person is infected, they are highly effective in preventing severe illness and death. Recent CDC data shows that at the time about 95 million Americans were fully vaccinated, only 9,245 became infected with COVID-19 after vaccination. That’s an infection rate that’s under 0.01 percent. So, the CDC is right about the face mask science.
The new CDC face mask science for wearing face masks depends on unvaccinated people’s honor.
Here’s the problem with the new CDC face mask recommendations. They require the unvaccinated to be on their honor about their vaccination status. The new CDC recommendations require no proof or verification of vaccination. Therefore, when we go into a room, we won’t be able to know if the maskless people there have been vaccinated. That’s a major problem.
We can’t depend that those who are maskless are following CDC face mask guidelines.
If we go into a business, under the new CDC rules, we’re not able to depend that we will be as safe as possible. The new guidelines are too easily abused. Everyone might be vaccinated, but on the other hand, only a few might be vaccinated. Work can be a serious problem, too. We won’t be sure if it’s safe to return to the workplace if we don’t know who is fully vaccinated.
COVID-19 is a lethal, highly infectious virus. We know that face masks are effective in stopping the transmission of COVID-19. Some workplaces may require periodic COVID-19 testing. However, we know that testing has limited effectiveness because of its false-negative rate.
We also know that some people who are vaccinated may not be as well protected as others. For example, immunocompromised individuals will not be fully protected by vaccination. Young children aren’t eligible to be vaccinated at this time and therefore, even if their parents want to protect them with a vaccine, they’re unable to do so.
People who aren’t vaccinated, who don’t follow CDC guidelines indoors by wearing a mask, put everyone near them at serious risk.
Unvaccinated people not wearing face masks indoors put everyone near them at risk. The risk is greatest among those who aren’t vaccinated and for whom the vaccination isn’t fully effective. That’s young children and the immunocompromised, but even those who are fully vaccinated would be put at some risk.
In my opinion, in the US, it is society’s obligation to protect those who are unable to adequately protect themselves. Yes, some children and the immunocompromised can wear face masks, but primarily, the point of wearing masks is to protect others from us, in case we are infected with the COVID virus. Without a mechanism to verify vaccination, at this time, as a nation, the US can’t protect the vulnerable from contracting COVID, to the extent it’s possible. That’s not right.
The answer to the problem of the new CDC face mask guidelines for fully vaccinated Americans is a vaccine passport.
The answer to this predicament is clear. The US needs to establish a universal, secure proof of vaccination, such as a “vaccine passport.” As I discussed earlier this month, forgeries of CDC vaccination certificates are already a serious problem and therefore they’re not a secure proof of vaccination. As I’ve also discussed, a US vaccine passport would be both legal and effective.
Once everyone who can be vaccinated has had an adequate opportunity to be fully vaccinated, we must have a way to universally, securely verify everyone’s COVID vaccination status.
Once everyone other than the youngest children has had a reasonable opportunity to be vaccinated, vaccine passports should be utilized nationally to prove vaccination for Americans, so that every American can be as safe as possible while going about their daily lives. There will have to be some exemptions to the rule for those who can’t be medically or legally vaccinated, such as those too young to be vaccinated and those who could be medically harmed by the vaccines.
Once we can verify vaccination status, we can allow vaccinated Americans to remove their masks. Once we reach a level of vaccination enabling herd immunity, everyone can safely remove their face masks.
After many years working in corporate America as a chemical engineer, executive and eventually CFO of a multinational manufacturer, Ned founded a tech consulting company and later restarted NSL Photography, his photography business. Before entering the corporate world, Ned worked as a Public Health Engineer for the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. As a well known corporate, travel and wildlife photographer, Ned travels the world writing about travel and photography, as well as running photography workshops, seminars and photowalks. Visit Ned’s Photography Blog and Galleries.