Tanya Lewis: Hi, welcome to COVID, fast, Scientific american Podcast series!
Josh Fischman: This is your quick update on the COVID pandemic. We take you quickly to understand the science behind the most pressing issues related to viruses and diseases. We uncover the mystery of research and help you understand its true meaning.
Lewis: This is Tanya Lewis.
Fishman: This is Josh Fischman.
Lewis: And we Scientific americanThe senior health editor. Today we will explain why the CDC now wants vaccinated people to wear masks indoors again.
Fishman: We will discuss an important reason why some people still refuse to get vaccinated.
Just a few months ago, the CDC stated that in most cases, vaccinated people do not need to wear a mask. But this week the agency changed its course, saying that people vaccinated should sometimes wear masks. What do you suggest? Why did you suddenly change position?
Lewis: In its latest guidance, the CDC stated that under certain circumstances, vaccinated people should wear masks again in public indoor environments—for example, if you live in an area with a high transmission rate of COVID. (This includes people who lived with more than 50 cases per 100,000 people last week.) The agency also recommends that all K-12 schools, including all students, teachers, and staff wear masks.
The CDC stated that the reason for the change was new data on Delta variants and breakthrough infections. As we all know, Delta virus is more infectious than previous strains, and the virus produced in the body seems to be 1,000 times the original strain. There are reports that breakthrough infections have occurred in fully vaccinated people, and in rare cases, they may pass it on to others. Therefore, the reason why vaccinated people wear masks is to prevent them from spreading the virus to people who cannot be vaccinated, such as children under 12 years of age or people with weakened immune functions.
A breakthrough infection is expected because no vaccine is 100% effective. According to data from the United Kingdom and Israel, they may be more common than the Delta variant we imagined. Nonetheless, vaccines are excellent at preventing serious illness and death-the vast majority of people currently hospitalized with COVID are not vaccinated.
If you are vaccinated and you are infected with COVID, this does not mean that the vaccine will not work.As a former surgeon Jerome Adams Put it in a tweet, “Think of the virus as the ocean, and the vaccine as a life jacket… You may still get wet… But your life jacket ([the] The vaccine) greatly reduces your chances of drowning. Getting wet does not mean that the life jacket is not working. “
In the past few weeks, the number of cases, deaths and hospitalizations in the United States has been on the rise. We have defenses against this disease, but some people will not use them. Vaccination has stagnated, and some unvaccinated people still refuse to wear masks. Most of us are confused by all this. Why is human resistance so strong?
Fishman: I think there are many reasons, but there is a big reason: many people still don’t think COVID is a serious and deadly disease. Two factors contributed to this. One is related to numbers. The other has to do with who we listen to.
Let’s look at the numbers first. We have 330 million people in this country. CDC data shows that 2.3 million people have been admitted to the hospital within 18 months of the pandemic, indicating a serious condition.
Imagine a big bowl with 300 million marbles, and then put 2 million in it. They are hard to find. Therefore, among hundreds of millions of Americans, it is very likely that someone does not know another person with severe COVID. If a serious illness is not part of your personal experience, it is easier to treat it as a mild illness.
This seems to be believed by people who have not been vaccinated. In June, the Caesars Family Foundation conducted a poll on people’s vaccinations. 57% of unvaccinated adults said that news about COVID is often exaggerated. Only 22% of vaccinated adults said so. 71% of adults who have not been vaccinated say that they are not at all or not too worried about getting sick from the virus.
Lewis: This is incredible. From whom did they get clues?
Fishman: In the past year and a half, many people have strengthened this belief. They said that COVID is not serious.psychologist Robert Cialdini A PhD from Arizona State University studies how people form beliefs and what affects them, so he and I talked about this.
Cialdini said people are very concerned about what other people around them-friends, family, neighbors, political leaders-say or do. If other people with the same values as yours have a specific attitude, it makes more sense.
Local patterns of low vaccine rates—such as Alabama or certain counties in Missouri—are examples of neighbors influencing neighbors in this way.
Then there are national influencers. We have all heard Donald Trump say that COVID is no big deal and it is not worse than the flu. Many Republican congressmen and governors opposed wearing masks and refused to wear masks themselves. Cialdini pointed out that these leaders are spreading uncertainty, and the uncertainty about how to do it magnifies their social influence.
Now we see the results, the mortality and hospitalization rate among the unvaccinated people is getting higher and higher.
But attitudes can be changed, Cialdini said. The opposition of society changed them—not yelling or accusing. However, if local leaders say that not being vaccinated will harm the community as well as people themselves, it may be surprisingly effective. These ideas are rippling around the community. He hopes that vaccines can follow these ripples.
Lewis: Now you are up to the rhythm. Thank you for joining us. Summer is here and we are about to leave.
Fishman: We will be back at the end of August. So, come back to learn more about COVID! And check SciAm.com for the latest and in-depth COVID news.
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]