- The Washington Times
Thursday, September 17, 2020

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield, in a hearing before the U.S. Senate, said face masks are better than any old vaccine in protecting against the coronavirus, and that every man, woman and child in America ought to get used to wearing one, but quick.

And then the next day he walked back his remarks.


But only some of them. Which left some of his other remarks — which counter past scientific remarks from other remarking scientists — intact.

Revolving science? Or no science at all? You decide.

Smart vote, though, is on Flip-a-Coin science.

Here’s what Redfieldsaid at the Senate hearing, word for word: “This face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take a COVID vaccine because the immunogenicity may be 70% and if I don’t get an immune response the vaccine’s not going to protect me. This face mask will.”

What’s immunogenicity?

Yeah, there’s a looker-upper for sure — and one definition has it as “the ability of a molecule or substance to provoke an immune response.”

So what Redfield’s saying is that taking a vaccine will only prod along a person’s immune response to the point of actually providing the intended health protection in 70% of the cases. The face mask, on the other hand, Redfield said, is far, far, far more superior in protecting wearers against the coronavirus.

So superior, it seems, one might ask: So why bother with a shot at all?

Redfield’s words: “Face masks, these face masks, are the most important powerful public health tool we have and I will continue to appeal for all Americans, all individuals in our country, to embrace these face coverings. These actually, we have clear, scientific evidence they work and they are our best defense.”

And then he waved his immune system, err, face mask, in the air for emphasis.

And then the next day he took to Twitter to recant. Or did he?

“I 100% believe in the importance of vaccines and the importance in particular of a #COVID19 vaccine,” he wrote. “A COVID-19 vaccine is the thing that will get Americans back to normal everyday life.”

Not a face mask?

“The best defense we currently have against this virus,” he wrote in a second tweet, “are the important mitigation efforts of wearing a mask, washing your hands, social distancing and being careful about crowds.”

Oh. OK. So just to clarify: The face mask is more guaranteed to protect against COVID-19 than a vaccine — but the vaccine is 100% important, too. So that would make the face mask — 110% important? Or 120%? Or maybe it’s 150%?

We’ll wait for the clarifying tweet on that one.

In the meantime, though, there’s still this puzzler: Weren’t face masks billed as protections for others, rather than self? And weren’t there age recommendations that came with the wearing of face masks, as well?

Redfield to Senate: “This face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID …”

Redfield to Senate: “Face masks, these face masks, are the most important powerful public health tool we have and I will continue to appeal for all Americans, all individuals in our country, to embrace these face coverings. …”

Yale Medicine in April, citing the CDC guidelines for wearing face masks: “A mask is meant to protect others, not yourself.” And: “The mask recommendation is not for everyone. The advice [from CDC] doesn’t apply to children younger than 2 …”

And just to toss in some more confusion, here’s a bit from the University of California at San Francisco, citing CDC and World Health Organization findings: “Do masks protect the people wearing them or the people around them? ‘I think there’s enough evidence to say that the best benefit is for people who have COVID-19 to protect them from giving COVID-19 to other people …’”

So: to protect others. Primarily, that is.

UCSF.edu then adds this: “Another factor to remember … is that you could still catch the virus through the membranes in your eyes, a risk that masking does not eliminate.”

Redfield? Calling Dr. Redfield?

Here’s a thought: How about letting the American people decide for themselves how best to deal with personal health decisions. Those who want to wear masks, wear masks. Those who don’t, don’t. 

And those who simply want to follow the best science available on the matter — well, good luck with that. Flip a coin. That’s how the experts are getting their guidance, it seems.

• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at cchumley@washingtontimes.com or on Twitter, @ckchumley. Listen to her podcast “Bold and Blunt” by clicking HERE. And never miss her column; subscribe to her newsletter by clicking HERE.


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