The Centers for Disease Controls and Prevention didn't loosen its mask guidelines to encourage more people to get their COVID-19 vaccines, but it's hoped that the move will have that as at least a "secondary effect," Dr. Anthony Fauci said Friday.
"The caveat is, you want to make sure that people who have not been vaccinated don't all of a sudden decide, well, they're not going to be wearing masks because they see the vaccinated people not wearing masks," Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Biden administration's chief medical advisor, told MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
The best way to get along safely without wearing a mask is to get vaccinated, Fauci added.
Meanwhile, there is still concern about people who have not gotten vaccinations spreading COVID, particularly as the masks come off, but Fauci stressed that the risk of contracting the disease is much lower for a person who has been fully vaccinated.
"Even the best vaccines, the ones that are 94% and 95% effective, they're still going to have 5% or 6% of people who would be vaccinated and not fully protected," said Fauci. "The one interesting thing is, if you look at the profile of the people who have breakthroughs, more often than not, they really have no symptoms ... vaccines, you know, can benefit you in a couple of ways. One, it can prevent you from getting infected. But also, if you happen to have a breakthrough infection, it prevents you from getting a serious disease."
Fauci said the CDC's decision was science-based and came after a continual decline in the number of daily cases.
"They're down in the 30,000 (daily range), which is about a one-third diminution from a few weeks ago," said Fauci. " As more and more data come in, it becomes clear how spectacularly effective these vaccines are. I mean, every time you look at the real-world effectiveness studies, not only in the United States, but in other countries such as Israel and Qatar, and others, the vaccines are really extraordinarily good at protecting individuals."
It has also become very easy to be vaccinated, said Fauci, even with the medication now being allowed for teens ages 12-15.
"Several pharmacies, 15,000, I now believe, are now fit to be able to take kids as they come in," said Fauci. "So hopefully this will be an incentive for people to get vaccinated."
Meanwhile, parents have said they're concerned about the new mask rules while their younger children remain unvaccinated, but Fauci said he also expects the age limits to drop to even allow shots for children who are younger than 12, with children of "virtually any age" able to be vaccinated by the end of the year.
However, he said he doesn't expect elementary school-aged children to be able to get their shots in time for the school year to start this fall, as he thinks it will take until the end of the calendar year for that to happen.
Fauci added that he hopes that the states will pull together on rules concerning masks and on the vaccination efforts so that the virus will beat such a "low level, it will not be of concern to anybody."
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