CDC director Robert Redfield suggested in a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on Wednesday that face masks are "more guaranteed" to protect against the coronavirus than a vaccine, citing the potential for some people to not become immune to the virus after receiving the shot.

What he's saying: "These face masks are the most important, powerful public health tool we have. And I will continue to appeal for all Americans, all individuals in our country, to embrace these face coverings. I've said if we did it for 6, 8, 10, 12 weeks, we'd bring this pandemic under control," he said.

  • "I might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take a COVID vaccine. Because the immunogenicity may be 70%, and if I don't get an immune response, the vaccine's not going to protect me. This face mask will."

The big picture: While face masks are one of the best COVID-19 mitigation strategies we currently have, a vaccine remains the best long-term solution. A number of coronavirus vaccines are now in phase 3 trials, including candidates from Oxford and Moderna that produced immune responses in tests this summer.

  • Wearing face masks "could result in a large reduction in risk of infection," according to a June review of 172 studies looking at the effectiveness of masks in reducing the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and other coronaviruses.
  • Mask mandates in 15 states plus D.C. early in the pandemic may have helped to avert at least 230,000 coronavirus cases by May 22, according to a study published in Health Affairs.

What to watch: Redfield told the subcommittee that he believes there will be a "very limited supply" of a vaccine between November and December, and that "we're probably looking at late second quarter, third quarter of 2021" for widespread distribution.

  • That's in line with comments from NIAID director Anthony Fauci, who has said he believes a coronavirus vaccine will be widely available to the public by late 2020 or early 2021 — allowing the U.S. and other countries to get back to "a degree of normality."

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7 states set single-day coronavirus case records last week

Data: Compiled by Axios; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Seven states set new highs last week for coronavirus infections recorded in a single day, according to the COVID Tracking Project and state health departments. Wisconsin and Nebraska surpassed records set the previous week.

Why it matters: Problem spots are sticking in the Midwest, although the U.S. is moving in the right direction overall after massive infection spikes this summer.

8 hours ago - Health

Trump's health secretary asserts control over all new rules

HHS Secretary Alex Azar and President Donald Trump. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Heath and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar wrote a memo this week giving him authority over all new rules and banning any of the health agencies, including the FDA, from signing any new rules "regarding the nation’s foods, medicines, medical devices and other products," the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: The story further underscores reporting that health and scientific agencies are undergoing a deep politicization as the Trump administration races to develop a coronavirus vaccine, as Axios' Caitlin Owens has reported. Peter Lurie, a former associate commissioner of the FDA, told the Times that the Azar memo amounted to a "power grab."