Top UAB infectious disease expert reacts to new CDC fully vaccinated mask guidelines

Photo courtesy of Pat Byington (in the photo) for Bham Now

Today, the CDC announced new guidelines stating that anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities without wearing a mask. 

There are a few caveats, including continued mask wearing at hospitals and on planes and public transportation. Check out the new guidelines – HERE.

Reaction from UAB’s Dr. Michael Saag

Mike Saag
Photo via Michael Saag

Bham Now caught up with Dr. Michael Saag, Professor of Medicine and Infectious Diseases at the UAB  to get his reaction to the new CDC mask wearing guidance.

“That’s spectacular news (new CDC guidance) and something we’ve all been waiting for at least a couple months. Ever since the vaccine was released, we had a sense that the vaccine would be able to reduce the transmission of the virus in our community. What we’re seeing is that not only does it shorten duration of illness, and the severity of illness in those rare individuals who do become infected after they’ve been vaccinated. We now know that the duration of shedding a virus is much less than what we had previously thought. 

The first COVID vaccines arriving at UAB
The first COVID vaccines arriving at UAB on December 15. Photo via UAB

The likelihood of transmission, even as somebody was transiently infected after vaccination is very, very low. Put it all together, the CDC was waiting on data like this before they changed the recommendation. Now that they have this new information they can announce with confidence, for those people who are vaccinated, they do not need their mask indoors or outdoors, except in some very select situations.” 

Getting Vaccinated is Liberating

Dr. Saag strongly encourages people to get fully vaccinated. 

“When we think about it. What this says is that getting vaccinated is liberating. It frees us up from the shackles of being worried about getting infected with COVID and transmitting the virus to others. Now we know, we can go about business as usual in a close to normal fashion, which is something we’ve all been longing for for over a year. A lot of people have been saying, I want freedom. And mostly what they meant by that was freedom to choose and, of course, people do have freedom to choose whether or not to get vaccinated. I’d use that word a different way. When we get vaccinated, we have freedom from fear of the virus. And that is very valuable.”

Vaccination Locations

Dr. Hernando Carter’s vaccination card. Photo via Dr. Hernando Carter

The Jefferson County Department of Health and the Alabama Department of Public Health have several useful websites that can help you identify places to get a shot.


According to UAB the volume for first-dose vaccinations has plummeted 75 percent in total at all of UAB’s community vaccination locations over the past five weeks. 

Healthcare officials are hoping the recent approval for children 12 years old and up to receive the vaccine and the new CDC guidelines on fully vaccinated mask wearing will encourage people to take the vaccine.

Stay Tuned

Meanwhile, Dr. Saag and medical researchers are very encouraged by CDC’s new mask guidelines and directives.

“This is phenomenal news,” said Saag

Pat Byington
Pat Byington

Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.

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