The recent discovery of certain side-effects and complications, be it the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine or the Russian vaccine have only added to our fears that a vaccine might not be the safest bet while the pandemic continues to surge in heavy numbers.
It is also far-sighted to presume that a vaccine alone would be able to save mankind from doom. Social distancing, sanitation and other preventive measures, including the usage of masks may still have to be practised. Recent statements from the Director of Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have only further clouded our fears.
Robert Redfield, director of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), United States, considered to be the apex body of medical research recently said that while vaccines may be solving our problems to a certain extent, face masks work better to offer a lot more protection for us.
While Redfield’s comments faced some criticism globally, the statement only proves how the world might be overestimating the benefits of a COVID-19 vaccine. Speaking in front of a government committee, the CDC Director said:
“We have clear scientific evidence they work, and they are our best defence. I might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against Covid-19 than when I take a vaccine,”
Why our wait for a vaccine may be more stretched out than we thought
Even though vaccines are made with the sole motive of preventing an epidemic, they may not ALWAYS work. For one, extensive trials are needed to confirm their efficacy rates, which is not possible right now, considering the need of the situation at hand.
Globally, over 35 companies are involved in critical phase III trials to roll out a vaccine in time. The timeline and funding for the same has already been expedited, but it still won’t get us early access. Remember, science takes time to work and it would be ludicrous to rush the process and risk our health.
Continuing to practice safety measures would hence, be necessary.
Are masks a safer option than taking a vaccine?
Masks and vaccines are two different things and work differently. While comparing these doesn’t make sense, adopting mask hygiene could bring us closer to controlling the pandemic right now. In fact, using masks could also make the job of vaccine makers easier in the future.
Early vaccines may not be the safest ones. There can always be the risk of extensive side-effects which can bring additional health problems. Hoping for a vaccine to be error-free right now paints too bright of a picture.
Compared to this, masks available right now are mostly safe and require little precision to use.
Distributing and using masks is also cheaper, more economical than an early vaccine rollout.
A lot of loopholes, clearances need to be checked out. Priority access and authorisation need to be figured out as well. Hence, simply developing a vaccine is only part of the job. All of these hurdles can put a vaccine’s efficacy to test and delay the rollout.
Wearing a mask can be one of the safest and the most preventable ways of protecting infection risk.
Masks can work to protect the population, irrespective of age. It is also easier to administer and distribute the masks to the needy and produce in high volumes.
How much protection do face masks guarantee?
From not recommending face masks to mandating the use of a covering, medical guidelines have shifted on the usage of masks.
CDC guidelines suggest that wearing a mask could be the single biggest way to reduce your risk of catching novel coronavirus. Using a mask effectively reduces the amount of saliva when someone coughs into a room, implying that if sick people wear masks, everyone else will be better protected.
Provided you are using the mask correctly (from the type of mask, avoiding loose gaps and ensuring it fits well), a mask can work in preventing the spread of the disease, to a certain extent. It can also help prevent asymptomatic transmission as well.
Hence, whether or not you are sick, or showing symptoms, wearing a mask is good for you.
In fact, non-compliance with masks and social distancing is also contributing to the growth in case.
CDC Director Redfield, as well as WHO, recommends wearing a mask, even after we get a vaccine ready for use. The pandemic could be also brought under control quicker if more and more people adopt preventive strategies.