CDC: Vaccinated patients may be spreading COVID-19, universal masking needed

The internal CDC document, first shared online by the Washington Post, discusses strategies to promote vaccination and the need for universal masking.

An internal CDC presentation acknowledged that while COVID-19 vaccines largely prevent severe illness, they may be less effective at preventing infection and transmission, especially with the rise of the delta variant in the United States.

The document, first obtained and published by the Washington Post, stresses that "the war has changed" when it comes to fighting COVID-19, and provides big-picture recommendations for what the agency can do to help control the latest wave.

In summary, the CDC says:

  • The delta variant is different from previous COVID-19 strains, adding that it is highly contagious, likely more severe, and breakthrough transmissions may be as transmissible as unvaccinated cases.
  • While vaccines prevent greater than 90% of severe cases, they may be less effective at preventing transmission and infection.
  • Given the current vaccination rates in the U.S., non-vaccine efforts such as masking and social distances "are essential" to preventing spread.

Furthermore, the CDC acknowledges the agency must improve its communication efforts, including improving the public's knowledge and understanding of breakthrough cases, and the benefits of vaccination, including that "the risk of severe disease or death [is] reduced 10-fold or greater in vaccinated, and risk of infection reduced 3-fold in vaccinated."

Recommendations for preventing COVID-19 spread, considering the situation on the ground, are:

  • Consider vaccine mandates for healthcare providers to protect vulnerable populations.
  • Universal masking for source control and prevention.
  • Reconsider other community mitigation strategies.