Dr. Ronald Nahass, the head of ID Care, the largest physician group for infectious disease specialists in the state, said he was thrilled to see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finally addressed the mask question for those fully vaccinated on Thursday night — saying those who were fully vaccinated could stop wearing them.
“The CDC has just been so late, frankly, in making some statements,” he said. “So, I guess my initial reaction was, ‘It’s about the time.’”
His second reaction? They missed the mark. Nahass said the announcement should have come with better explanation and guidance.
“I think the messaging has been all wrong,” he said. “I was relieved about what they said, but the message is not being made clear.”
The lives of those who are vaccinated is not the concern, Nahass said.
“What is the issue about being masked and unmasked?” he asked, and then answered. “Is it danger to the vaccinated people? No, it’s not. It’s a danger to the unvaccinated.
“That’s the issue. Somehow, the perception that wearing the mask is for protection of the vaccinated still is there — and that’s really not the issue. The issue is the unvaccinated folks.”
Nahass, who has been an expert in infectious disease for more than 30 years, said all the messaging — and all the rules and regulations — need to be concerned with those who are not vaccinated. They are the issue.
“Let’s just use a restaurant as an example,” he said. “If 80% of the people are vaccinated and 20% of them are not, are you worried about the group that is vaccinated? No, you’re not. You’re worried that the group that are unvaccinated may pick up the disease, transmit it potentially to each other, and get catastrophically ill.
“The vaccine is extraordinarily effective in not only preventing infection, but, moreso, in preventing catastrophic illness. The ICU care, etc. But that’s only if you took the vaccine. If you didn’t take the vaccine, then you have no benefit. You have no side benefits, and the disease is still a bad disease.”
Nahass said there should be more concern about limiting access for those who are not vaccinated than opening access for those who are not.
“The people who don’t get vaccinated should keep their masks on, the people who don’t get vaccinated should not be in a restaurant, the people who don’t get vaccinated should not be allowed to socialize,” he said.
“I’m all in on a vaccine passport. I think the challenge for the health care providers is that the unvaccinated people are the ones that are going to still demand health care, they’re going to still require health care and they’re the ones that will potentially ignite some other serious outbreak somewhere.”
Nahass said restricting the actions of those who are not vaccinated is not only the right thing to do — it is something society already does.
“They’re saying it violates civil rights: What civil rights?” he said. “In hospitals, for years we’ve required all the staff to be vaccinated for the flu. If you aren’t vaccinated, you can’t work in the hospital. If you’re not vaccinated, you can’t work here at ID Care. So, how is this vaccine any different?
“If you want to travel to Tanzania or Kenya, or Brazil, the World Health Organization still requires you to have a vaccine for yellow fever. There’s an international certification that you’re required to have. If you don’t have it, they won’t let you in the country.
“So, we’ve been doing this all along. This doesn’t seem all that much different. In fact, it seems to be something with an even greater imperative, because this disease is affecting millions, if not billions, of people. And so, how can we not do it for this disease when we can do it for others?”