JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There was a sense of back to normal when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks.
On Friday, the World Health Organization came out and said masks should stay on.
“The physical distancing, avoid crowding — this still continues to be extremely important, even if you are vaccinated,” said Dr. Mariangela Simao, WHO assistant director-general.
But before you grab those masks out of retirement, Chad Neilsen, UF Health Jacksonville director of accreditation and infection prevention said: “I don’t want to say take it with a grain of salt, but just understand where the World Health Organization is coming from and who they’re speaking to with that data.”
Neilsen explains that WHO makes blanket statements for countries as small as Indonesia to as large as Russia.
“I basically follow the CDC’s recommendations,” said Dr. Sunil Joshi, Duval County Medical Society Foundation president.
Like Neilsen, Joshi said he’s recommending to his patients to follow the CDC’s guidelines.
The CDC says: “Fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.”
“When World Health makes these statements, they’re trying to get out a broad category message regardless of vaccination rates across the world,” said Neilsen.
According to the CDC, 46% of the United States is fully vaccinated and 54% of the country has had at least one shot.
While those numbers are not as high as medical experts hoped to see by now, they are still the highest percentage among the world’s largest countries by population.
Even against the delta variant, Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines are about 90% effective at preventing illness and 94% effective against severe illness and hospitalization. Johnson & Johnson is still collecting data on how its vaccine performs against the Delta variant.
“We know that the vaccine works,” said Neilsen.
Enough that these medical experts agree that if you are vaccinated in the U.S., you can ditch the masks for now.
However, Joshi notes that if you travel out of the country, it is best to follow the WHO recommendations and follow that country’s guidance on masks.