The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated its COVID-19 guidance on wearing masks. On May 13, 2021, the CDC announced that “fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in any setting, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.”1
Additionally, the CDC stated that people who have received COVID-19 vaccinations and are “fully vaccinated” are now allowed to:
- Resume activities without wearing masks or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance
- Resume domestic travel and refrain from testing before or after travel or self-quarantine after travel
- Refrain from testing before leaving the United States for international travel (unless required by the destination) and refrain from self-quarantine after arriving back in the United States
- Refrain from testing following a known exposure, if asymptomatic, with some exceptions for specific settings
- Refrain from quarantine following a known exposure if asymptomatic
- Refrain from routine screening testing if feasible1
Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physical distancing,” CDC director Rochelle Walensky, MD said, “If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things you had stopped because of the pandemic. We have all longed for this moment, when we can get back to some sense of normalcy.”2
The Unvaccinated Should Still Mask Up
The new CDC guidance does not apply to those who have not gotten two doses of the experimental mRNA Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna/NIAID biologics, or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine. Dr. Walensky said that unvaccinated people should continue to wear masks, pointing out that she believes they are still at risk for mild and severe COVID-19-related illness and death, as well as able to spread the SARS-CoV02 virus to others. But she acknowledged the new guidance for her agency may have little effect on “anyone not inclined to wear masks in the past.”3
However, these two assumptions by CDC officials about the COVID-19 vaccine protecting against infection and transmission of SARS-CoV-2 may not necessarily be accurate. The first one assumes vaccination is the only way to lower or eliminate one’s susceptibility to COVID-19 symptoms. This is a controversial topic, because numerous studies have been published suggesting there are alternatives to vaccination for preventing COVID-19.5 6 7 8 9 10
How Protected Are Fully Vaccinated People?
According to the CDC, “The science is clear: If you are fully vaccinated, you are protected, and you can start doing the things that you stopped doing because of the pandemic.”11 Here again, there is some controversy, and so the validity of the assumption is open to question.
There have been plenty of cases of people, who have been “fully vaccinated” in terms of receiving one two doses of COVID vaccine, who have tested positive for COVID-19 when they thought they were immune. In an article published last month in The Vaccine Reaction, Carolyn Hendler noted, for example, that in the state of Washington alone, there have been at least 100 so-called “breakthrough” cases of fully vaccinated people coming down with COVID-19. Eight of those cases resulted in hospitalizations and there were two deaths.12
Similar breakthrough COVID-19 cases have been reported in Minnesota, Oregon, Nebraska, Idaho, Michigan and Florida among other states. There were 89 breakthrough cases among healthcare workers reported in Minnesota, four cases in Oregon, 15 cases in Nebraska, 246 cases in Michigan, and 97 cases in Idaho, with Central Florida seeing approximately 38 breakthrough cases. In Michigan, 11 of the vaccinated COVID-19 patients were hospitalized and three of them died. In Houston, Texas 142 fully vaccinated individuals tested positive for the virus more than two weeks after their second shot.12
So, despite what the CDC claims, the scientific evidence related to how well-protected a “fully vaccinated” person is from being infected with SARS-CoV-2 and developing COVID-19 disease remains unclear. It is also not clear how unprotected an unvaccinated person is when there is still much to learn about SARS-CoV-2. Everyone is different and any blanket claim about who is and is not protected from COVID-19 disease is overly simplistic and unreliable at this point.
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Click here to view References:
1 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People. May 13, 2021.
2 Nazaryan A. CDC Defends Lifting the Mask Requirement, Says Only Unvaccinated People Are at Risk Without Them. Yahoo! News May 13, 2021.
3 Lovelace B. CDC says fully vaccinated people don’t need to wear face masks indoors or outdoors in most settings. CNBC May 14, 2021.
4 Duster C, Thomas N. CDC chief on mask wearing: Unvaccinated people need to be honest with themselves. CNN May 16, 2021.
5 Cáceres B. Three New Studies Support Vitamin D’s Role in Preventing and Treating COVID-19. The Vaccine Reaction Sept. 29, 2020
6 Cáceres B. Vitamin D Benefits Confirmed by New COVID-19 Research. The Vaccine Reaction May 18, 2020.
7 Raines K. What Does Zinc Bring to the Table? The Vaccine Reaction Oct. 11, 2020.
8 Raines K. Vitamin D Deficiency Studies and COVID-19. The Vaccine Reaction July 19, 2020.
9 TVR Staff. High Doses of Vitamin C Used to Prevent and Treat Coronavirus Infections in China. The Vaccine Reaction Mar. 10, 2020.
10 YouTube. Vitamin D Might Just Save You From Getting COVID-19. The Vaccine Reaction Nov. 30, 2020.
11 Mazziotta J. Vaccinated Americans Can Now Go Without Masks in Most Indoor and Outdoor Places, CDC Says. People May 13, 2021.
12 Hendler C. “Breakthrough Cases” of COVID-19 Emerging Among Fully Vaccinated Americans. The Vaccine Reaction Apr. 26, 2021.