Officials with the World Health Organization on Friday encouraged those fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to continue to wear masks in certain situations, citing the dangers the delta variant poses to those who are still unvaccinated.
During a press conference on Friday, officials with the WHO noted that to help reduce the community spread of COVID-19, those who are fully vaccinated should still take some precautions.
The comments were made by Dr. Mariângela Simão, the assistant director-general for access to medicines and health products.
"Vaccine alone won't stop the community transmission, and we need to ensure that people follow the public health measures that Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove was speaking (about) today," Simão said. "People need to continue to use masks consistently, be in ventilated spaces, hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, the physical distance, avoid crowding."
"So, people cannot feel safe just because they had the two doses," Simão added. "They still need to protect themselves."
The comments come as countries around the world are imposing new health restrictions to combat the spread of the delta variant — a more contagious mutation of the virus that officials suspect is 50 to 60% more contagious than the alpha variant of COVID-19, which was first observed in the U.K.
According to The Washington Post, the worldwide decline in the seven-day average of new cases has slowed. Germany has set new limits on incoming travelers, and South Africa has extended curfews and a ban on indoor dining.
Despite the threat posed by the delta variant, officials say the COVID-19 vaccines are holding up well. Moderna on Tuesday announced that lab trials show its vaccine works well in protecting users from variant strains.
"These new data are encouraging and reinforce our belief that the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine should remain protective against newly detected variants," Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said in a statement on Tuesday. "These findings highlight the importance of continuing to vaccinate populations with an effective primary series vaccine."
The findings bode well for countries like the U.S., where vaccination rates are high in comparison with the rest of the world. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 46% of the country is fully vaccinated, and 66% of adults are at least partially vaccinated.
However, for countries where vaccines aren't widely available, the WHO warns that a single breakthrough COVID-19 infection could result in more community spread of the virus. In countries like India and Brazil, where vaccines have only covered less than 23% of the population, daily case rates are still extremely high, according to Johns Hopkins.
In May, the CDC said those who are fully vaccinated could safely go without masks and social distancing. For those people who are unvaccinated, the CDC still recommends face coverings and social distancing. As of Tuesday, that guidance remains in place.
However, some local health departments, like the Los Angeles County Department of Health, have issued "strong" recommendations for residents to take maximum precautions as scientists continue to research the delta variant's spread.
"Until we better understand how and to who the delta variant is spreading, everyone should focus on maximum protection," the department said in a statement.
As Delta Variant Circulates, Public Health Recommends Masking Indoors as a Precaution - 3 New Deaths and 259 New Confirmed Cases of COVID-19 in Los Angeles County.— LA Public Health (@lapublichealth) June 29, 2021
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