The World Health Organization (WHO) said that fully vaccinated individuals should still wear masks and engage in social distancing because of the “Delta” COVID-19 variant.
“People cannot feel safe just because they had the two doses. They still need to protect themselves,” Dr. Mariangela Simao, WHO assistant director-general, told reporters late last week during a Geneva news conference.
COVID-19 vaccines alone “won’t stop community transmission,” Simao said. “People need to continue to use masks consistently, be in ventilated spaces, hand hygiene … the physical distance, avoid crowding. This still continues to be extremely important, even if you’re vaccinated, when you have a community transmission ongoing.”
Her remarks come as some countries, including the United States, have mostly done away with mask-wearing amid a campaign to get people vaccinated. The number of new infections in the United States has remained steady, with about 11,659 new cases per day, according to Johns Hopkins University.
There have been reports of “breakthrough” cases in recent days, including in the United States. An Israeli official, who also warned of new lockdowns, told The Wall Street Journal last week that about half the people who were infected during an outbreak of the Delta variant were fully vaccinated.
“Yes, you can reduce some measures, and different countries have different recommendations in that regard. But there’s still the need for caution,” Dr. Bruce Aylward, a senior adviser to the WHO’s director-general, told reporters last week. “As we are seeing, there are new variants emerging.”
Following the announcement, some said that WHO’s latest guidance is confusing.
“Confusing to see @WHO tell otherwise healthy, fully vaccinated people that they must continue to mask in public,” wrote Dr. Vin Gupta, of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. “We have data that being fully vaccinated protects against severe outcomes from the Delta variant. New data contradicting has not emerged. The message shouldn’t change.
“We need consistency in messaging on masks and vaccines so we can all get vaccinated quickly,” adding that “changing the guidance without clear data on why will only confuse.”
During their briefing, WHO officials didn’t say how long people should continue to wear masks or engage in social distancing. A study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology earlier this year found that social distancing is far less important than having proper ventilation inside a room.
The WHO officials also didn’t make mention of countries, including the United States, that have a relatively higher percentage of vaccinated people. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 53.9 percent of the U.S. population has had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Some countries have already implemented lockdowns due to the Delta variant. They include Australia, New Zealand, Bangladesh, Portugal, and Israel.
COVID-19 is the illness caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.