Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) confronted top White House health adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci on Thursday over the purported need for Americans who have already been infected with or vaccinated against COVID-19 to continue wearing masks.
Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has recommended that Americans who receive a vaccination against COVID-19 continue to wear face masks and practice social distancing through the end of the year and into 2022.
During a Senate hearing on the nation's coronavirus response, Paul questioned Fauci on the science behind his recommendation, asking if any studies had shown mask-wearing is necessary post-vaccination.
Rand Paul just exploded on Dr. Fauci over the "need" for wearing masks after you've been vaccinated https://t.co/OZproppExf— Caleb Hull (@Caleb Hull)1616083022.0
"No scientific studies have shown significant numbers of reinfections of patients previously infected or previously vaccinated, what specific studies do you cite to argue that the public should be wearing masks well into 2022?" Paul asked.
"You're telling everybody to wear a mask whether they've had an infection or a vaccine, what I'm saying is they have immunity and everybody agrees they have immunity," he continued. "What studies do you have that people who have had the vaccine or have had the infection are spreading the infection?"
"If we're not spreading the infection, isn't it just theater?" Paul pressed.
"Here we go again with the theater," Fauci responded. "Let's get down to facts."
Fauci argued that different variants of the coronavirus present "a good reason to wear a mask," citing a Johnson & Johnson study that found some individuals previously infected with "wild" type of coronavirus had no resistance to and were infected by a South African variant of the virus.
"I agree with you that you very likely would have protection from wild type for at least six months if you're infected but we in our country now have variants that are circulating," Fauci said.
But Paul pushed back on Fauci's assertion, demanding that the doctor point to a scientific study that shows there's significant risk of coronavirus reinfection, hospitalization, or death for people who have been vaccinated.
"It doesn't exist. There is no evidence that there are significant reinfections after vaccine," Paul contended.
Fauci said Paul was "not hearing what I'm saying about variants," but the senator countered that there is no evidence of a significant problem with coronavirus reinfections. Fauci then explained the coronavirus variants aren't prevalent enough to cause a problem but may become a serious issue later.
"You're making policy based on conjecture," Paul accused.
"You've been vaccinated and you parade around in two masks for show," he continued. "You can't get it again, there's virtually 0% chance you're going to get it ... you're defying everything we know about immunity by telling people to wear masks who've been vaccinated."
"Let me just state for the record that masks are not theater, masks are protective," Fauci began to say before Paul interjected.
"Past-immunity they are theater," the senator said. "If you already have immunity, you're wearing a mask to give comfort to others. You're not wearing a mask because of any science."
"I totally disagree with you," Fauci said.
Fauci did not point to a scientific study that shows there is a significant risk of coronavirus reinfection for vaccinated Americans.
Previously, Fauci has said that when health experts and policy makers "don't have the data and you don't have the actual evidence, then you've got to make a judgment call."