CDC director: Vaccinated people 'safe' from delta variant, do not need to wear masks

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle WalenskyRochelle WalenskyFDA panel endorses COVID-19 booster shots for older Americans, rejects widespread use Watch live: White House COVID-19 response team holds briefing The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Tight security for Capitol rally; Biden agenda slows MORE said Wednesday that fully vaccinated people are "safe" from the current variants and do not need to wear masks, doubling down on CDC guidance as some others call for a return to mask wearing.

The question of mask wearing has come back to the forefront given recommendations from Los Angeles County health officials, and from the World Health Organization, that even fully vaccinated people should continue to wear masks indoors in public as a precaution due to the rise of the highly transmissible delta variant of the virus.

But Walensky said that the CDC's guidance has not changed and that fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks, echoing other health experts who note that the vaccines are highly effective even against the delta variant.

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"If you are vaccinated, you are safe from the variants that are circulating here in the United States," Walensky said on NBC's "Today," adding it was "exactly right" that vaccinated people do not need to wear masks.

She responded to the WHO by saying they are dealing with a worldwide situation where far fewer people are vaccinated than in the United States, given global vaccine disparities, and are therefore issuing more cautious advice.

"We know that the WHO has to make guidelines and provide information to the world," she said. "Right now, we know as we look across the globe that less than 15 percent of people around the world have been vaccinated and many people of those have really only received one dose of a two-dose vaccine. There are places around the world that are surging."

She also did not criticize Los Angeles.

"We have always said that local policymakers need to make policies for their local environment," she said.

Experts have expressed concern that some areas of the U.S., particularly the South, with low vaccination rates could have localized surges due to the delta variant.

But the vaccines are highly effective against the variant. A British study last month found the Pfizer vaccine is 88 percent effective against the variant after two doses, for example.

Walensky also said that while there is "less data" on how the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine performs against the delta variant, "right now we have no information to suggest that you need a second shot after J&J, even with the delta variant."