Anthony Fauci says Americans have to wear masks till 2022, here's how far the US is from Covid-19 herd immunity

Research indicates it will take the US at least till 2022, if not longer to vaccinate enough people to justify ending mitigation measures. Until then, masks represent our best line of defense


                            Anthony Fauci says Americans have to wear masks till 2022, here's how far the US is from Covid-19 herd immunity
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a meeting on June 30, 2020, in Washington, DC (Getty Images)

Dr Anthony Fauci, America's top infection diseases expert, warned that we may have to wear masks till at least 2022, in an interview with CNN's Dana Bash on Sunday, February 21. With the Covid-19 vaccination drive increasing, it has led many to wonder if he right? 

If data from Israel is anything to go by, Fauci could be right. It is possible that the maskless future many of us have been dreaming of is closer than 2022. But as with all things related to Covid-19, it is subject to change.

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Israel shows end is possible

Herd immunity is a concept where enough people have been vaccinated or are immune to a disease, making the disease less dangerous. Scientists estimate that we would need to vaccinate at least 70-75% of the population to reach that figure, although it is still debated.

Israel is the first nation to show that herd immunity may be possible against Covid-19. Data from Clalit Health Services, Israel's largest healthcare provider found that the Pfizer and BioNtech vaccines significantly reduced chances of infection.

"There was a 94 percent reduction in the rate of symptomatic infection and a 92 percent decrease in the rate of serious illness compared to 600,000 similar (subjects) who were not vaccinated," Clalit said. More importantly, it also found that the data held across age groups, including those over 70. 

Of course, it is important to note that the study has not been peer-reviewed, but since this data is based on Israel's national database, it is very likely to be accurate. Another study published in The Lancet found an overall reduction of cases by 75% in the country.

Together the two studies show that vaccinations could help stop the spread of Covid-19 and not just serious illness. Since just 30% of Israelis have received both doses, we still need more data to show if the trend is true. If it is, we could be returning to a maskless world sooner than we thought.

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is administered the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine (Getty Images)

What about the US?

The data from Israel is promising indeed, but that doesn't mean we should all be jumping for joy just yet. We need more research to really understand how the vaccine impacts Covid-19. To date, no vaccine available claims to reduce transmission, only serious illness. Even if the data from Israel is found to be accurate, it could be a long time before the US sees a maskless future.

Israel's stringent lockdown and vaccination rules have allowed the country to quickly curb Covid-19. In the US, that is far from the case. With measures varying from state to state, America has found it harder to combat the virus than other nations. Currently, only 12.9% of the US population has been vaccinated with one dose. 

Until the nation is able to vaccinate enough people to reach the herd immunity figure, going around maskless is likely to lead to more infections and deaths. With limited vaccines and a large population, it is also extremely difficult for the US to match Israel's vaccine rollout. It will take the US at least till 2022, if not longer to vaccinate enough people to justify ending mitigation measures. Until then, masks represent our best line of defense against Covid-19.

Governor Kate Brown has asked Oregonians to wear a face mask at all times except when eating and drinking, whether they are indoors or outdoors (Getty Images)

Backlash to news

Dr Fauci's statement has been met with the expected backlash from American social media users. While some have supported the idea, others are less pleased about spending another year behind masks.

A lot of users have picked up on an old video of Dr Fauci saying there was no need to wear masks. The comments were made by Dr Fauci on March 8, 2020, long before Covid-19 became a pandemic. Since then, he and the CDC have promoted mask-wearing as a key mitigation measure. Yet, plenty of social media users have called Dr. Fauci a hypocrite for his old statement. 

One user said, "Fauci can wear 10 masks at a time until 2030 if he wants. I'll use my own judgement and do what I want." Another added, "How many times has Fauci changed his mind, contradicted himself or lied in the past year! He will change his mind! If he and John Kerry have their way we will be wearing masks for eternity. This will be added to The Paris Accords. In China everybody wears masks due to pollution!"



 

 

 



 

The only way to truly know if we don't have to wear masks or maintain social distancing is to get vaccinated and allow scientists to collect more data. Until other nations show similar results, Dr Fauci's prediction could be right.

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