As many U.S. states continue to relax COVID-19 protocols, concerns are growing about the more contagious Delta variant. But while the World Health Organization is encouraging people to keep wearing masks even if they’re vaccinated, Dr. Anthony Fauci says it doesn’t look like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently plans to change its guidelines.
“The CDC continually monitors the situation and I’m sure would remain flexible, that if any changes are warranted based on the evolving situation, they would then make a change in their recommendation. But right now, it doesn’t look that way,” Fauci said in an interview Wednesday on CBSN. “It looks like they’re going to continue to stay by their original recommendation.”
Under the CDC recommendations, fully vaccinated people can resume most indoor and outdoor activities without wearing a mask or social distancing.
But on Tuesday, Los Angeles County health officials urged both vaccinated and unvaccinated residents to continue wearing face masks indoors due to the quickly spreading Delta variant — a strain first identified in India that is predicted to become dominant in the U.S. and other countries.
The World Health Organization released similar recommendations this week, advising everyone, regardless of vaccination status, to continue wearing masks.
“People cannot feel safe just because they had two doses,” WHO assistant director-general Dr. Mariangela Simao said in a news conference. “They still need to protect themselves.”
But Fauci put those comments into perspective. The WHO reports that approximately 10% of the world population is fully vaccinated. In comparison, over 46% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
“It is not comparable to look at what the WHO is recommending for the planet compared to what we in the United States, which have done generally quite well with vaccinations,” said Fauci, who serves as the chief medical adviser to President Biden and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
He said the U.S. is, for the most part, a “well-vaccinated country” within an “under-vaccinated” world. But he also said he’s “quite concerned” about the risk to those who haven’t gotten their shots.
“The Delta variant has the capability of spreading much more efficiently from person to person. It also can cause more severe disease. So there are two things about it that are troublesome,” he said. “The good news about this is that the vaccines that are used in this country do very well against the Delta variant.”
Fauci stressed that “people who are unvaccinated are at significant risk of a virus that spreads so efficiently,” and he urged people to protect themselves.
“We are asking people, almost pleading with people, if you are not vaccinated, please get vaccinated,” he said.
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