White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci got into a rather contentious exchange with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., while appearing Thursday at a Senate hearing on the nation’s coronavirus response efforts.
Paul was grilling Fauci about whether people who have had COVID-19 or have been vaccinated are at risk of contracting the virus again, even suggesting the nation’s leading infectious disease expert’s decision to wear a mask after being vaccinated was “just theater.”
The senator, an ophthalmologist, stressed that “there have been no scientific studies arguing or proving that infection with COVID does not create immunity,” adding that there have been “only a handful of reinfections.”
“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?” Paul asked.
Fauci questioned the connection being made between masks and reinfections.
“You’re telling everybody to wear a mask, whether they’ve had an infection or a vaccine,” Paul replied. “What I’m saying is they have immunity, and everybody agrees they have immunity. What studies do you have that people who have had the vaccine or have had the infection are spreading the infection? If we aren’t spreading the infection, isn’t it just theater?”
The question did not go over well with Dr. Fauci, who insisted that it’s not theater.
“You’ve had a vaccine and you’re wearing two masks, isn’t that theater?” countered Paul.
“No — here we go again with the theater,” Fauci shot back.
The lawmaker pressed Fauci to cite a study that shows significant reinfection.
Pointing to a South African study by Johnson & Johnson, Fauci said that if people are exposed to variants of the virus after immunity they had “no protection.”
The two went back and forth as Paul continued to ask for a study that shows significant reinfection and Fauci kept talking about variants.
A new New York Blood Center study found that all three FDA-approved vaccines show efficacy against COVID-19 variants, according to Fox News.
“You’re making a policy based on conjecture,” Paul charged.
“No. It isn’t based on conjecture,” Fauci replied.
“You have the conjecture that points to variants, so you want people to wear masks for another couple years,” the GOP senator said.
“You’ve been vaccinated and you parade around in two masks for show,” he said. “You can’t get it again. There’s virtually zero percent chance you’re going to get it, yet you are telling people who have had the vaccine, who have immunity — you’re defying everything about immunity by telling people to wear masks after they’ve been vaccinated.”
Stressing that people don’t want to wear the masks, Paul said freeing them from doing so would result in more people getting vaccinated.
“You should be saying there is no science to say we’re going to have a problem from the large number of people who’ve been vaccinated. You want to get rid of vaccine hesitancy? Tell them to quit wearing their mask after they get the vaccine?” he said. “You want people to get the vaccine. Give them a reward instead of telling them that the nanny state is 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.”
“Well, let me just state for the record that masks are not theater,” Fauci replied. “I totally disagree with you.”
“If you have immunity, they are theater,” Paul insisted. “If you already have immunity you’re wearing a mask to give comfort to others. You’re not wearing a mask because of any science.”
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