(CNSNews.com) - Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes for Health, said on Sunday that vaccine and mask mandates "can make a difference" in reducing the escalating number of COVID cases, and he said he "celebrates" when he hears of businesses and schools requiring them.
"Is it time for more vaccine mandates?" George Stephanopoulos, host of ABC's "This Week," asked Collins:
"Well, that's a obviously hot topic," Collins replied:
For me, as a not political person, as a physician, as a scientist, the compelling case for vaccines for everybody is right there in front of you. Just look at the data.
And certainly I celebrate when I see businesses deciding that they're going to mandate that for their employees and, as a person who runs the National Institutes of Health with 45,000 employees and contractors, I am glad to see the president insisting that we go forward requiring vaccinations or if people are unwilling to do that, then regular testing, at least once or twice a week, which will be very inconvenient.
Yes, I think we ought to use every public health tool we can when people are dying. Death rates are starting up again. You just went through the numbers about how many new cases we are seeing. We are on a very steep up swift of that curve and we ought to be thinking of every possible intervention.
Collins said he believes that vaccine and mask mandates would reduce COVID cases, despite the "resistance" they engender:
"But isn't that a shame, George?" he asked.
I mean, how did we get here? Why is it that a mandate about a vaccine or wearing a mask suddenly becomes a statement of your political party?
We never should have let that happen. And come on, America. We can separate these, can't we? We're incredibly polarized about politics, we don't really need to be polarized about a virus that's killing people. We ought to be doing everything we can to save lives.
And that means get the vaccine. And that means wear the mask when you're indoors in a crowded space. And if you're unvaccinated, wear it all the time.
Collins noted that children under 12 are not yet approved for vaccination, and he said more of them are ending up in the hospital. “The largest number of children so far in the whole pandemic right now are in the hospital, 1,450 kids in the hospital from COVID-19.”
Collins said there is no “rigorous data” showing that the delta variant is more serious for children. However, he added, “I certainly am hearing from pediatricians that they're concerned that, this time, the kids who are in the hospital are both more numerous and more seriously ill.
“We will have to get better comparisons to be sure of that. We do have evidence that delta may be more serious for older folks as well, and including middle-aged people and 20s and 30s, where it does seem, from studies in Singapore and in Scotland and then in Canada, that this is a virus that is not only more contagious, but potentially more lethal.”
Asked for his advice to parents who are about to send their children back to school, Collins urged them to "think about masks in the way that they ought to be thought about."
This is not a political statement or an invasion of your liberties. This is a life-saving medical device. And asking kids to wear a mask is uncomfortable, but, you know, kids are pretty resilient. We know that kids under 12 are likely to get infected and if we don't have masks in schools, this virus will spread more widely.
It will probably result in outbreaks in schools and kids will have to go back to remote learning which is the one thing we really want to prevent. This kind of virtual learning which kids have had to go through now for more than year is really bad for their development. We ought to be making every effort to make sure they can be back in the classroom.
And the best way to do that is to be sure that masks are worn by the students, by the staff, by everybody. It's a small price to pay for being able to keep kids where they need to be to learn.
Collins urged unvaccinated Americans to "get off the fence."
"Go to Vaccines.gov. Roll up your sleeve. Become part of the winning team," he said.