No masks: Vaccines fast-tracked by Trump protect against all COVID variants

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rochelle Walensky, said Wednesday on NBC’s “Today” that fully vaccinated people in the U.S. are protected against all variants of the coronavirus and do not need to wear masks. 

Walensky doubled down on previous CDC guidance in her remarks, which came as recommendations from Los Angeles County health officials, and from the World Health Organization said that even vaccinated individuals should wear masks indoors as a precaution against the new delta variant of the virus.

Walensky agrees with other health experts that COVID vaccines are highly effective against all known virus variants.

“If you are vaccinated, you are safe from the variants that are circulating here in the United States,” Walensky said.

World vaccination rates lower

Walensky said that WHO recommendations to continue indoor mask wearing even when fully vaccinated take into account much lower vaccination rates in many places around the world.

“We know that the WHO has to make guidelines and provide information to the world,” she said. “Right now, we know as we look across the globe that less than 15 percent of people around the world have been vaccinated and many people of those have really only received one dose of a two-dose vaccine. There are places around the world that are surging.”

As for Los Angeles, Walensky said, “We have always said that local policymakers need to make policies for their local environment.”

A British study showed last month that the Pfizer vaccine was 88% effective against the delta variant. No evidence suggests that even the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine was any less effective against variants of the virus.

Encouraging vaccination

The U.S. government is still encouraging unvaccinated Americans to go under the needle to boost protection and keep new case numbers low.

A poll in the The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) Vaccine Monitor for June showed that unvaccinated people were more likely to get vaccinated if their employers gave paid time off for doing so and for recovery time, if needed.

For those whose employers offered PTO, 75% were vaccinated, while only 51% of workers whose employers didn’t offer PTO were vaccinated.

Vaccination rates were also higher if employers encouraged the vaccine, with 73% getting the vaccine if an employer encouraged it, while only 41% did so if the employer did not encourage it.

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