The situation has changed dramatically since the early days of the pandemic. The vaccines were unquestionably of great value in diminishing the number of hospitalizations and deaths, particularly among the elderly and immuno-compromised. And at first, the vaccines were also highly effective in preventing community spread.
But the virus has changed and the vaccines have not. Despite all we heard about how the mRNA vaccines could be fairly quickly “tweaked” to protect against new variants, this has not been done. The mRNA vaccines that we have now are the same as what we had during the alpha variant wave. They worked quite well because they were based on RBD proteins of the alpha variant. But as the RBD has mutated, new variants have demonstrated progressively greater degrees of immune escape, all of which was inevitable.
The vaccines still confer a fair degree of protection against severe disease, but the newer variants also demonstrate much less ability to descend into the lower respiratory tract than the alpha and delta variants did and that was what caused most of the severe pathology and mortality. Unfortunately, the vaccines offer very little protection against community spread. In one analysis, cited below, from New York State, the Pfizer vaccine was only 12% effective in preventing infection in the 5-11 year age group.
As for your take on CDCs mask recommendations I agree completely and you have in fact touched a nerve. Well into this pandemic the current director of the CDC, Rochelle Wallensky, was maintaining that person to person spread of SARS-CoV-2 was primarily via droplets, trying to make a case that cloth masks were effective. This was despite the fact that top epidemiologists and virologists, such as Michael Osterholm who had studied the SARS and MERS coronavirus pandemics extensively, said from the start that it was beyond a doubt that the virus was transmitted by tiny aerosolized particles that easily penetrated even multi-layer cloth masks and many surgical masks. In fact, it was only in March of 2022 that the White House diverged from the CDC and focused on aerosol airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2.
One of the most profoundly shocking demonstrations of the dishonesty of the CDC was their claim in February of this year that wearing a cloth mask diminished risk of testing positive for covid-19 by 54%. This was based on a study cited below that looked at positive test rates for users of different types of masks between groups of individuals that always wore a mask in public and those who never wore a mask in public. The fact is that there was no statistically significant difference between the two groups for those who wore cloth masks. Yet the CDC advertised this study as showing 54% protection for cloth masks. This is one of the most profoundly scientifically dishonest pieces of misinformation I have seen on the part of a US health agency in a long time.
While the study did show a significant difference for the surgical mask users the study certainly did not establish cause and effect for wearing a mask. Obviously people who always wore a mask were much more likely to embrace other mitigating strategies such as avoiding public places or close human contact in groups, etc. than those who never wore a mask. So their exposure would have been much less mask or no mask.
Mandates have required passengers on public transportation to “wear a mask” yet cloth masks, shown to have filtration efficiencies for tiny aerosolized particles capable of carrying a 100 micron coronavirus of 12% or less, would qualify. So travelers were mandated to do something that in many cases was completely ineffective and pointless.
The CDC has also completely discounted, if not actively suppressed, scientific data demonstrating the protective value of so-called natural immunity conferred by prior infection with SARS-CoV-2 when issuing their one-size-fits-all recommendations and mandates for who should be vaccinated.