World Health Organization Urges Vaccinated People to Continue Wearing Masks Due to Delta Variant of COVID

"Vaccine alone won't stop community transmission," Dr. Mariangela Simao, WHO assistant director-general for access to medicines and health products, said in a news briefing

A group of teenagers serving as 'Covid-19 Student Ambassadors' joined Governor Gretchen Whitmer to receive a dose of the Pfizer Covid vaccine at Ford Field during an event to promote and encourage Michigan residents to go and get their vaccines on April 6, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan
Teen receives COVID vaccine. Photo: Matthew Hatcher/Getty

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has eased its guidance on masking for those fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the World Health Organization has a different stance on the matter.

On Friday, WHO advised that vaccinated people should continue to wear masks and practice other safety precautions due to the highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19 spreading across the globe.

"Vaccine alone won't stop community transmission," Dr. Mariangela Simao, WHO assistant director-general for access to medicines and health products, said in a news briefing. "People need to continue to use masks consistently, be in ventilated spaces, hand hygiene ... the physical distance, avoid crowding. This still continues to be extremely important, even if you're vaccinated when you have a community transmission ongoing."

"People cannot feel safe just because they had the two doses. They still need to protect themselves," Simao added.

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The statement comes after the CDC updated its website to say that fully vaccinated people "can resume activities that you did prior to the pandemic."

"Fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance," the CDC website reads, adding that those who aren't vaccinated against COVID-19 should "[k]eep taking all precautions until you are fully vaccinated."

A spokesperson for the CDC did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment on Tuesday.

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According to Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of WHO, the Delta variant of COVID-19 is "the most transmissible of the variants identified so far."

The variant, which was first identified in India, is spreading in 85 different countries and moving faster due to the lack of vaccines in poorer countries, Ghebreyesus said during the news briefing on Friday.

As of June 29, more than half of the U.S. population, or 54.2% of Americans, have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 46.4% are fully vaccinated, according to CDC. Of the vaccine-eligible Americans, meaning those aged 12 and up, 63.4% have received at least one dose and 54.3% are fully vaccinated.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from the CDC, WHO and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.

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