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Monique Curet
By Monique Curet June 2, 2021

Social media posts repeat false information about mask guidance for unvaccinated people

If Your Time is short

• Health experts recommend that unvaccinated people wear masks to protect other unvaccinated or not-fully-vaccinated people.

• As of May 30, 40.7% of the total U.S. population was fully vaccinated against COVID-19, leaving a large swath of the population remaining to be fully protected. 

•  COVID-19 cases in the U.S. have declined dramatically, but on May 29, the seven-day average for new daily cases was still more than 18,000 per day. 

Masks have been a hot topic throughout the pandemic, and when guidance on their use is updated, a fresh wave of misinformation often follows.

That was the case when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on May 13 that fully vaccinated people can forgo wearing masks in most settings. One post shared widely on Facebook says, "So the unvaxxed have to wear mask (sic) to protect the vaxxinated." 

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

There is no evidence to suggest that health experts recommend masks for unvaccinated people in order to protect vaccinated people. On the contrary, the rationale for unvaccinated people to continue wearing masks is in large part to protect other unvaccinated or not-fully-vaccinated people.

Wearing a mask while unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated reduces the spread of respiratory droplets that travel in the air when coughing, sneezing, talking, shouting or singing, according to the CDC. It also helps prevent the spread of the virus by unvaccinated or not-fully-vaccinated people who have COVID-19 but are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic. 

While the CDC’s shift in its stance on masks surprised some, the decision was based on increasing vaccinations, declining cases, new research since March showing the efficacy of vaccination and real-world evidence from other countries.

"A growing body of evidence indicates that people fully vaccinated with an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna) are less likely to have asymptomatic infection or to transmit SARS-CoV-2 to others," the CDC reported. 

Featured Fact-check

As of May 30, 40.7% of the total U.S. population was fully vaccinated against COVID-19, leaving a large swath of the population remaining to be fully protected. Some people are not eligible to be vaccinated, including children under 12 years old, and the data is still limited about the effectiveness of vaccines for those who are immunocompromised. 

Though COVID-19 case counts in the U.S. have declined dramatically, on May 29, the seven-day average for new daily cases was still more than 18,000 per day. 

Those cases "are occurring mostly in the increasingly narrow slice of the unprotected population," according to a data analysis by The Washington Post. In the U.S., the current case rate among unvaccinated residents is similar to the case rate for all residents on Jan. 1.

Our ruling

A Facebook post says, "So the unvaxxed have to wear mask (sic) to protect the vaxxinated." 

There is no evidence to support the claim that mask recommendations are for the benefit of the vaccinated. Three-fifths of the total U.S. population is not yet fully vaccinated, and daily COVID-19 cases in the U.S. still number in the thousands. Wearing masks helps prevent the spread of COVID-19 among those who are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated.

We rate this claim False.

 

Our Sources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID Data Tracker, accessed May 31, 2021

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Guidance for unvaccinated people/Guidance for Wearing Masks," updated April 19, 2021

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Science Brief: COVID-19 Vaccines and Vaccination," May 27, 2021

Facebook post, May 22, 2021

New York Times, "Vaccinated Americans May Go Without Masks in Most Places, Federal Officials Say," May 13, 2021

PolitiFact, "About face on mask-wearing: Why did the federal guidance change?" May 25, 2021

Washington Post, "The unseen covid-19 risk for unvaccinated people," May 21, 2021 



 

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Social media posts repeat false information about mask guidance for unvaccinated people

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