During a Senate hearing Thursday, Sen. Rand Paul and Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, sparred over whether masks should be used after a person has received a COVID-19 vaccine. Here’s a transcript of their exchange, which occurred during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing:
Rand Paul: 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 that the public should be wearing masks well into 2022?
Anthony Fauci: I’m not sure I understand the connection of what you’re saying about masks and reinfection. We’re talking about people who have never been infected before.
Paul: You’re telling me everybody to wear a mask, whether they’ve had an infection or a vaccine. What I’m saying is they have immunity, and everybody agrees they have immunity.
What studies do you have that people that have had the vaccine or have had the infection are spreading the infection? If we’re not spreading the infection, isn’t it just theater?
Fauci: No, it’s not.
Paul: If you’ve had the vaccine, and you’re wearing two masks, isn’t that theater?
Fauci: No, that’s not. Here we go again with the theater. Let’s get down to the facts. OK. The studies that you quote from Crotty and Sette 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—
Paul: And what study can you point to that shows significant reinfection? There are no studies that show significant reinfection.
Fauci: Let me finish the response to your question if you please. The other thing is that 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 and were 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’ve got to 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 have variants that are circulating—
Paul: Point to the study that shows significant reinfection. What study shows 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 the two-week period after the second vaccination. We don’t have a death in the United States.
Fauci: You’re not hearing what I’m saying about variants. We’re talking about wild type versus variants.
Paul: And what proof is there that there are significant reinfections with hospitalizations and death from the variants? None in our country, zero.
Fauci: Well, because we don’t have a prevalent of a variant yet. We’re having one … Can I finish? We’re having 117 that’s becoming more dominant.
Paul: That’s because you’re making policy based on conjecture.
Fauci: It isn’t based on conjecture.
Paul: You have the conjecture that we’re going to get variants, so you want people to wear a mask for another couple of years.
Paul: You’ve been vaccinated and you parade around in two masks for show.
Paul: You can’t get it again. There’s almost … virtually 0% chance you’re going to get it.
And yet you’re telling people that have had the vaccine, who have immunity, you’re defying everything we know about immunity by telling people to wear a mask who 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 have been] vaccinated.
You want to get rid of vaccine hesitancy? Tell them they can quit wearing their 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’s going to be there for three more years and you got to wear a mask forever.
People don’t want to hear it. There’s no science behind it.
Fauci: Well, let me just state for the record that masks are not theater. Masks are protective and we—
Paul: In immunity, they are theater. If you already have immunity, you’re wearing a mask to give comfort to others.
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