Moderna's CEO says vaccines aren't a 'silver bullet,' people must still social distance and wear masks

  • Wearing a mask and social distancing are the "best weapon" to control the virus, according to Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel.
  • Bancel spoke at the Bloomberg New Economy Forum on Thursday. 
  • Moderna recently announced that its experimental vaccine was 94.5% effective against the new coronavirus.
  • Bancel said in a recent interview with Business Insider that the public will have access to a vaccine by summer 2021.
  • "It's not a silver bullet," Bancel said in reference to the vaccine. "When you see people going to crowded places with no masks, or eating inside restaurants with no masks…You're going to get infected, the only question is when."
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Moderna's CEO Stéphane Bancel said wearing a mask and social distancing are the "best weapon" to control the virus right now.

Bancel, whose company is developing an effective vaccine for COVID-19, spoke of the importance of following public health guidelines during Bloomberg's New Economy Forum on Thursday. He said vaccines are "important," but surveillance and public health guidelines – like wearing a mask and social distancing — are still the best way to control the virus. 

"It's not a silver bullet," Bancel said about a vaccine. "When you see people going to crowded places with no masks, or eating inside restaurants with no masks, I don't understand it. You're going to get infected, the only question is when."

Moderna recently announced that its experimental vaccine was 94.5% effective at preventing coronavirus transmission in a study of 30,000 participants that has yet to be published in a medical journal. The results were a positive development in controlling COVID-19, but the FDA might take "weeks" to approve the drug for emergency use. 

Even after FDA approval, challenges in transporting and storing the vaccine could mean most Americans will not get access to the drug until mid-2021. Bancel said in an interview with Business Insider that the public will have access to a vaccine by the end of May.

As the US smashes coronavirus case and hospitalization records this winter, public health experts insist on the importance of wearing a mask and limiting social interaction outside your house. Since little is known on how contagious immunized people could be, experts like Anthony Fauci say to practice mask wearing and physical distancing even after receiving a vaccine.

Wu Zunyou, the chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said because the vaccine has still not been approved, the public must continue to wear masks and stay away from groups to control the virus's spread this winter.

"Wear a mask, social distance, hand washing, and ventilation — [these four] public health measures are still the major effective measures to control the epidemic," Zunyou said during the Bloomberg conference. "The vaccine is a good weapon for controlling the epidemic, however that cannot be used in the winter or cannot get the epidemic under control until next spring." 

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