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I'm a Doctor and Here's Why Masks are Better Than Vaccines

Doctors have found no difference between a vaccine and face mask in preventing the flu.
Confident experienced doctor in blue medical uniform frowning while standing with his arms crossed

If you're like most people, you're probably waiting with bated breath for a COVID-19 vaccine. This pandemic has been dragging on for months so it's easy to assume once a vaccine is released, everyone is in the clear. After one simple poke at your doctor's office, we can all rejoice in the glory of science. You can go to a concert, cheers a friend at a crowded bar, and head to a kickboxing class at the gym. 

But Dr. Robert Redfield, Director at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is here with a reality check. He recently claimed that face masks are more effective than a vaccine at this point and that a vaccine may not be the end-all be-all solution to the virus. Read on to hear why masks are better than vaccines, and to protect your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.

How do vaccines work?

"Vaccines help develop immunity by imitating an infection," according to the CDC. The infection doesn't cause you to get sick but it does teach your body how to fight off that particular infection. Throughout this pandemic, we've all found out that it takes several trials, tons of scientists, and a lot of money to develop a vaccine. But even with all this research and time dedicated to the coronavirus vaccine, there's no guarantee that it'll be 100% effective.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has agreed to approve a COVID-19 vaccine, even if it's only 50% effective. While that sounds shocking, it's actually not uncommon for an approved vaccine to have a relatively low effective rate.

In fact, a 50% effective rate is the flu vaccine's rating, according to the CDC. So, even if everyone got the approved COVID-19 vaccine, only about half of them will truly be protected from the virus. "If I don't get an immune response, the vaccine's not going to protect me," said Dr. Redfield.

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How do face masks work?

When you wear a face mask in public over your nose and mouth, it's less likely that your respiratory droplets will enter the air and potentially land on other people. If you have COVID-19 but are asymptomatic, you're protecting those around you with "the most powerful public health tool," according to Dr. Redfield.

Why face masks are better than vaccines

Dr. Appathurai Bala, deputy chief medical officer at Arkansas Department of Health, agrees that there's evidence that face masks are more effective than a vaccine. "There's no study to compare a vaccine with face masks for COVID, but there are studies for seasonal flu," says Dr. Bala. When analyzing these studies, he found no difference between a vaccine and face mask in preventing the flu.

Face masks were also one of the only defenses the general public had against the Spanish Flu. "History repeats itself and at that time, we didn't have vaccines, so face masks were promoted," Dr. Bala said.

Without a 100% effective vaccine that's been distributed completely around the world, Dr. Redfield warns that face masks are our only line of defense against the virus right now. "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," says Dr. Redfield.

So, what do we do while scientists are still hard at work developing a vaccine? "It is really important to physically distance or socially distance, wear masks, and wash hands whenever possible," says Dr. Bala. Follow the CDC's guidelines, be patient, and we'll get through this pandemic together. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Kelly Hernandez
Kelly Hernandez is a health and wellness writer and certified personal trainer. Read more
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