On vaccines and masking | Guest column

Submitted by J. Burk Gossom, M.D., Friday Harbor.

Immunizations are one of the most “natural” things using the immune system to fight disease. If you have doubts about effectiveness, Google iron lung pictures. This is how impressive vaccines are. Do vaccines always work, of course not in which case usually your immune system has a head start resulting in milder illness? Exposure to a new strain close to the one you were immunized against also allows the immune system responds more quickly protecting you against serious illness. This is exactly what we are seeing with COVID and the Delta variant.

We are told to wear masks because surgeons use them but they wear masks to prevent bacteria from getting into an open wound. This has nothing to do with viruses that go through and around cloth masks. Mask will limit the spread of droplets that are projected forward but do little for the individual viruses floating in the air. The majority of COVID is from these smaller particles and why most COVID is spread indoors. We do not know the effectiveness of cloth masks because the CDC refuses to do the studies but we see COVID spread in areas with high mask compliance being little different from other areas suggesting they are marginally effective.

Delta variant has been compared to Ebola and Chickenpox. The comparisons are not completely analogous but remember Ebola when caregivers caught the disease in the most secure isolation hospital room? Essentially 100% of the adult population has had chickenpox. Yet we are being told that somehow a cloth mask will prevent something this infectious, nonsense. Admiral Giroir was correct when he said that if you haven’t gotten the vaccine you will get Delta. If you are vaccinated you will hopefully have a mild disease.

For over a year we have known that children are at essentially no risk from COVID and the data shows their risk of dying from a cold type virus (RSV) is the same as dying from covid. Essentially all of the deaths under the age of 18 are associated with other serious illnesses, such as cancer. The Delta variant may change things. It has been around since December yet the CDC has little data on children. Is it more or less deadly? We do not truly know.

The bottom line. Cloth masks provide minimal benefit against Delta but as always avoid coughing, sneezing and breathing on others. This remains basic good advice. We should all act responsibly to prevent the spread of illness. If you are vulnerable use a mask that works such as the N95. If you are over 18 get the vaccination. There is a risk in living but in a vaccinated person this is less than the risk we live with every day so do not live in fear. Keep an open mind when it comes to the Delta variant for those under 18 as this has profound implications for the proper school response.