Masks may provide more protection than COVID-19 vaccine, CDC director says

Watch: Masks may provide more protection than COVID-19 vaccine

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Straight talk from the CDC director testifying on Capitol Hill about the effectiveness of wearing a mask during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield, masked at times in a Senate hearing room, spoke emphatically of the importance of everyone wearing protective masks to stop the pandemic, which has killed nearly 200,000 Americans. He floated the possibility that a vaccine might be 70% effective in inducing immunity, and said, “I might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take a COVID vaccine.”

RELATED: CDC, HHS push wearing masks as lawmakers say President Trump downplays importance

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His comments surprised federal lawmakers but Dr. Jeff Warren, Memphis City Councilman and member of the Memphis Shelby County COVID-19 Task Force said Redfield has a point.

“No vaccine is 100 percent,” said Dr. Warren. "Masks work but they are not 100 percent. But they are probably better at preventing the spread than a vaccine when you don’t have a mask on.”

Dr. Warren pushed the city council to pass an ordinance requiring people to wear a mask in public. Warren told FOX13 it will take time for the public to get the COVID-19 vaccine after it is first given to hospital employees, other medical professionals and first responders.

“Then gradually it will become more available to the public. We will have a campaign to get people in Memphis vaccinated,” said Warren.

During a Zoom interview, FOX13 asked Dr. Warren if the public should expect to continue wearing a mask while the COVID-19 rollout happens.

“We’re probably going to be in a mask until this time next year at the earliest,” he answered.

Dr. Warren’s prediction comes as Shelby County moves closer to 30,000 total cases, the highest in the state.

“We are gonna want to have a mask on,” said Warren.

The CDC director also told lawmakers the public has not yet fully embraced wearing a mask.

Locally, a recent University of Memphis study showed local mask-wearing is above 90 percent.

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