On Thursday, Kentucky GOP Senator Rand Paul got into a heated exchange with Dr. Anthony Fauci, during which Paul asserted to Fauci, “You’ve had the vaccine and you’re wearing two masks. Isn’t that theater?”
Paul asked, “Given that no scientific studies have shown significant numbers of reinfections of patients previously infected or previously vaccinated, what specific studies do you cite to argue the public should be wearing masks well into 2022?”
“I’m not sure I understand the connection of what you’re saying about masks and reinfection,” Fauci replied. “We’re talking about people who have never been infected before.”
“You’re telling everybody to wear a mask whether they’ve had an infection or a vaccine,” Paul fired. “What I’m saying is they have immunity and everybody agrees they have immunity. What studies do you have that people that’ve had the vaccine or had the infection are spreading the infection? If we’re not spreading the infection, isn’t it just theater?”
“No, it’s not,” Fauci insisted.
Paul reiterated, “You’ve had the vaccine and you’re wearing two masks. Isn’t that theater?”
“Here we go again with the ‘theater,’” Fauci replied sharply. “Let’s get down to the facts. Okay. The studies that you quote … look at in vitro examination of memory immunity, which in their paper they specifically say, ‘This does not necessarily pertain to the actual protection. It’s in vitro.’”
“What studies can you point to that show significant reinfection?” Paul pressed. “There are no studies that show significant reinfection.”
“Let me finish my response to your question, if you please,” Fauci said. “The other thing is when you talk about reinfection and you don’t keep in the concept of variants, that’s an entirely different ballgame. That’s a good reason for a mask. In the South African study conducted by J&J, they found that people who were infected with wild-type [virus without major mutations] and exposed to the variant in South Africa, the 351, it was as if they had never been infected before. They had no protection. So when you talk about reinfection, you gotta make sure you’re talking about wild-type. I agree with you that you very likely would have protection from wild type for at least six months if you’re infected but we in our country now and have variants that are circulating.”
Paul doubled down: “What studies show significant reinfection, hospitalization, and death after either natural infection or the vaccine? It doesn’t exist. There is no evidence that there are significant reinfections after vaccine; in fact, I don’t think we have a hospitalization in the United States after we have a two-week period after the second vaccination. We don’t have a death in the United States.”
“You’re not hearing what I’m saying about variants,” Fauci protested. “We’re talking about wild-type versus variants.”
Paul then added variants to his question: “What proof is there that there are significant reinfections with hospitalizations and death from the variants? None in our country. Zero.”
“Well, because we don’t have a prevalent of a variant yet,” Fauci commented. “We’re having 117, which is becoming more dominant.”
“You’re making policy based on conjecture,” Paul accused.
Fauci stated, “It isn’t based on variants.”
Paul then argued that Fauci’s insistence on masks was counterproductive to the goal of getting people vaccinated:
You’ve been vaccinated and you parade around in two masks for show. You can’t get it again. There’s virtually 0% chance you’re gonna get it, and yet you’re telling people that have had the vaccine, that have immunity — you’re defying everything we know about immunity by telling people to wear masks that have been vaccinated. Instead you should be saying there is no science to say we’re going to have a problem from the large number of people who’ve been vaccinated. You want to get rid of vaccine hesitancy? Wearing masks after they get the vaccine? You want people to get the vaccine? Give them a reward instead of telling them that the nanny state is going to be there for three more years and you gotta wear a mask forever. People don’t want to hear it; there’s no science behind it.
“Let me state just for the record that masks are not theater. Masks are protective,” Fauci replied.
Paul retorted, “If you have immunity they’re theater. If you already have immunity, you’re wearing a mask to give comfort to others, you’re not wearing a mask because of any science.”
Fauci said, “I totally disagree with you.” After being asked to clarify his position, Fauci answered:
First of all when you have a variant you have an immunity that you get what’s convalescent sera and the same sort of thing if I vaccinate you or me against the wild-type; you get a certain kind of antibody that’s specific for a particular viral strain. If there’s a circulating variant, you don’t necessarily have it; you have some spill-over immunity to be sure, but you’ve diminished from anywhere between to and eight-fold the protection. So the point I’m saying is that there are variants now circulating. The point that Senator Paul was making was that if you look at one type only, there is some clear-cut credence to what you’re saying. But we are living right now in a situation where we’re having a dominance of 117 which was the original U.K., we have a very troublesome variant in New York City of 526; we’ve got two variants in California of 427, 429, and we have a number of others. So we’re not dealing with a static situation of the same virus. That was the only point I’m making.
Nature reported on the most dominant variant of the virus: “First detected in the United Kingdom, B.1.1.7 is now the dominant variant there and is spreading widely across Europe. … The two-shot Pfizer vaccine is highly effective at preventing severe COVID-19, according to an analysis of more than one million people in Israel. Ran Balicer at Clalit Health Services in Tel Aviv, Israel, and his colleagues matched 596,618 people vaccinated as part of a nationwide campaign with an unvaccinated ‘twin’ of the same age, sex, ethnicity and neighbourhood of residence. … The study also covered a period when the emerging variant called B.1.1.7 was circulating widely in Israel, which suggests that the vaccine is effective at preventing COVID-19 caused by that variant.”
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