The WHO Is Encouraging Vaccinated People To Wear Masks Again. Here's Why

After getting vaccinated, many people were thrilled at the thought of throwing their masks in the garbage can. However, the World Health Organization is again recommending fully vaccinated people wear masks.

This recommendation is out of an abundance of caution regarding the new Delta variant of COVID-19 that was first discovered in India and has now spread across the globe (per The New York Times). Despite the relatively high vaccination rate in the United Kingdom, the variant has already flooded the U.K. and caused a surge of cases, and experts fear that the same will happen in the United States (per Scientific American). Having doubled in prevalence within just a couple weeks, the Delta variant encompassed 20.6% of all COVID-19 cases in the U.S. by mid-June 2021, according to The Wall Street Journal. Eric Topol, executive vice president at the Scripps Research Institution, described the Delta variant as "a superspreader strain if there ever was one" (per Scientific American).

Experts say that the Delta variant is likely to become the most common strain in the United States within the upcoming weeks or months. For context, even the considerably less transmissible Alpha variant managed to dominate the nation's COVID-19 cases in less than two months, said CDC director Rochelle Walensky on Good Morning America. Additionally, Dr. Anthony Fauci said in a White House briefing that the Delta variant is the "greatest threat" in our fight against COVID-19.

The CDC has not restored mask recommendations

The CDC, which dropped mask recommendations for fully vaccinated people back in May, has given no indication that it will modify its recommendations. According to CDC director Rochelle Walensky, the WHO is making its recommendations in the context of a world in which most people are unvaccinated, which isn't the case for the United States (via Twitter). However, she concedes that mask policies may need to be made in areas of the country where most people are unvaccinated.

Other experts disagree with this decision by the CDC. "The CDC needs to act quickly, without waiting, to follow the WHO guidelines and ask everyone to put the masks back on so we can stay open, protect folks, and keep the economy going," Dr. Shad Marvasti of University of Arizona College of Medicine told Yahoo. "We're already seeing preliminary numbers out of Israel where fully vaccinated people are getting sick."

This is why we should take precautions against the Delta variant

The Delta variant is not only more transmissible than previous forms of COVID-19, but it may also be more dangerous, especially for young people. A Scottish study published in The Lancet found that hospitalization rates doubled in people with the Delta variant compared to people with the Alpha variant, and that the Delta variant was also more likely to infect young people. Fortunately, the same study found that COVID-19 vaccines were effective against the Delta variant, albeit to a somewhat lesser extent compared to previous strains of the virus.

Thus, vaccination remains the most effective way to protect against all strains of COVID-19. High vaccination rates also help prevent the virus from mutating into something even more dangerous that may circumvent the current vaccines, as CDC director Rochelle Walensky told ABC News. And, of course, there is no harm for fully vaccinated people to continue wearing masks for added protection.