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CDC’s latest guidance on outdoor mask wearing ‘is a big milestone’: Doctor

Dr. Mati Hlatshwayo Davis, Infectious Disease Physician at Washington University School of Medicine and the John Cochran VA Medical Center, joins Yahoo Finance’s Sibile Marcellus and Alexis Christoforous to discuss the latest on the coronavirus.

Video Transcript

SIBILE MARCELLUS: But first let's talk about what the CDC guidelines for wearing masks outdoor has become so the new guidance is if you're a fully vaccinated American you can go outside, bike, walk in small groups without a mask. But the CDC did fall short of saying that if you're a fully vaccinated American, that you don't have to wear a mask outside. So you still need to wear a mask.

Now, to break this down I want to bring in Dr. Mati Hlatshwayo Davis, Infectious Disease Physician at Washington University School of Medicine, and the John Cochrane VA Medical Center into this. Now, doctor, have we turned a corner here now that so many Americans have gone ahead and gotten fully vaccinated?

MATI HLATSHWAYO DAVIS: You know, this is a big milestone. A year ago, we would have never imagined even having a vaccine, let alone walking into our new normal. But this is what this guidance signals. We know that close to 30% of Americans have received their vaccine. And we know that the closer we can get to herd immunity, the quicker we can get back to our new normal.

This guidance by the CDC reflects that. It reflects the fact that fully vaccinated folks have put themselves in such a high safety region that they can now enjoy some more freedoms. That includes being able to gather with small groups outside, being able to go to restaurant patios and eat outside in small groups unmasked. And they've also given some really helpful informatics and infographics around other examples of what can be done.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Doctor, I'm going to assume that you've gotten your vaccination already-- that you're fully vaccinated. Given what the CDC is advising today, would you feel comfortable walking outside right now without your mask on?

MATI HLATSHWAYO DAVIS: It's such an excellent question, because we've been doing this for a year. And I don't think anyone can be expected to just go back or just follow this guidance without some degree of hesitancy. And that's OK. I think for me, I certainly feel encouraged to do so, and I will do so with folks that I know have also been vaccinated within my closed circle.

But I also reserve the right to take my time. You know, what's difficult about science and public health measures is that there's a bridge between one and the other. And part of that bridge is human behavior. We still have the vast majority of Americans unvaccinated, and my hope is that this does not lead to people just being unmasked in general, but that truly, folks that are vaccinated will follow the guidance, just like folks who are unvaccinated will continue to follow the guidance around what they should be doing, which is different.

So I do think that we need to continue to encourage folks, to educate them, and to make people understand that the only reason we got here in the first place was because we listened. We listened to the public health measures around masking, social distancing, handwashing, and now we're seeing more and more Americans get vaccinated. And my great hope is that we can get more Americans vaccinated.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Doctor, you know, I came across a troubling statistic today that showed 8% of people who got their first dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna did not show up for their second dose. What would your message be to those people?

MATI HLATSHWAYO DAVIS: I'm as troubled as you are. And my message is this-- you will not get the full protection of the vaccine without taking both doses for vaccines that require both. We know this to be true. Those numbers that we heard at the end of last year, 95% efficacy for a vaccine, is an absolute triumph of science. But you will not get that full benefit without getting both vaccines.

Please do not make assumptions about what you can or cannot do. If something happens and, god forbid, that prevents you from going on the exact day, continue to follow up with your local health department to make sure you can get that vaccine as close to the time. But at the end of the day, whatever date you are given for your second dose, you need to show up and you need to get it done. Otherwise, you are not going to benefit from the protection that you hope to get from this vaccine.

SIBILE MARCELLUS: And, doctor, many Americans, understandably, have been weighing which vaccine to get-- the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which we know had to be paused and is now being allowed, or the two-dose vaccines. But the problem with the J&J vaccines is that there's a report that there are two new cases of blood clots after they started telling Americans to start using those vaccines again. So what's your message to Americans? Which vaccines should they trust?

MATI HLATSHWAYO DAVIS: My message is that you've got to take this data as a whole. You know, if we were to follow case by case, it's easy to be filled with fear. But the guidance here is absolutely appropriate. Johnson & Johnson is a safe and effective vaccine. Unfortunately, we have seen 17 out of over 6.5 million Americans who have taken this vaccine to get clots.

So this is a very rare side effect, but it can be severe. So the reason for the pause was, responsibly, to make sure that the public and health care providers who need to be able to advise the people that come to them around this, to understand what the risks and benefits are for them. And I think the specific population that needs to have this conversation with their health care providers are women of the age group of 18 to 48 who are the vast majority of people that we have seen get these clots, and to then weigh it.

We do have three very safe vaccines, though. And I think if you have the opportunity to get any one of them, you should. But first, speak to your physician if you have any sort of concerns about your personal risk with any of the vaccines, particularly the Johnson & Johnson.

SIBILE MARCELLUS: Definitely. There's a lot to consider, but it's important to get those vaccines. Dr. Mati Hlatshwayo Davis, thanks so much.