Published On: Thu, Nov 19th, 2020

NIH’s Collins: Masks Are ‘Lifesaving Medical Instrument’

Director of the National Institutes of Health Francis Collins is urging Americans to wear masks and continue to take coronavirus mitigation measures seriously for at least a “few more months.”

During a Monday appearance on PBS NewsHour, he called the updates for the COVID-19 vaccine candidates “encouraging,” but warned people still need to wear masks and social distance.

“Wearing the mask. This is not an invasion of your personal freedom. This is actually a lifesaving medical instrument. We have the data for that. With Thanksgiving coming and other holiday gatherings, I think we're all really concerned that this could get even worse if we don't follow those guidelines, those three W's,” said Collins. “You know what they are, wear your mask, watch your distance and wash your hands. We have got to do that.”

He likened wearing a mask to wearing a seat belt.

“It’s a way to save lives,” he said.

He noted that if approvals go according to plan, up to 20 million people could be immunized in December. He said no corners were cut in developing the vaccines.

“We did it in 11 months, and yet no corners were cut,” he said. “And to have done these trials with more than 30,000 participants and to have the data analyzed by an independent group, which is what happens here with this Data Safety Monitoring Board, and then to go to FDA, this is as rigorous as it gets anywhere in the world.”

He praised the speed of the forthcoming vaccine, but warned that the pandemic is still happening.

“The cavalry is coming,” he said. “The vaccines are working. Biotechnology and this hard work of industry and academia and NIH has paid off in a dramatically rapid fashion, that we have never seen anything quite like it before. It usually takes eight years to get to this point.”

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