Face masks could be just as effective as a vaccine for slowing coronavirus spread

LITTLE ROCK, Ark — One of the Arkansas Department of Health’s top doctors said previous studies show face masks could be just as effective as a vaccine during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Bala is the deputy chief medical officer at the Arkansas Department of Health. While there is still no vaccine for COVID-19, he said there’s some evidence face masks are nearly just as good at containing the virus.

“There’s no study to compare vaccine with face masks for COVID, but there are studies for seasonal flu,” he said.

COVID-19 spreads the same way flu does: mainly through respiratory droplets. So, Dr. Bala said these studies offer great insight.

One study from the 2014-2015 flu season found no difference between vaccination, and face masks, in keeping children from getting the flu.

“So, it’s comparable,” Dr. Bala said.

RELATED: Coronavirus updates: 314 new COVID-19 cases in Arkansas, over 9,700 total

Face masks were also a major player at containing the spread when the Spanish Flu broke out 100 years ago. He said they proved to keep hospitalizations and deaths down.

“History repeats itself and at that time we didn’t have a vaccines so face masks were promoted,” Dr. Bala said.

As for what type of face mask you need, a simple piece of cloth that covers your mouth and nose will do.

“General public studies have shown that cloth masks are as good as any other mask,” Dr. Bala said.

These cloth masks will help to contain the virus when you cough, talk or sneeze, even if don’t know you are a carrier.

RELATED: Asymptomatic spread of coronavirus is ‘rare,’ WHO official says

“One thing people always need to remember is, asymptomatic carriers, carry a lot during this pandemic,” Dr. Bala said.

But masks are only effective if everyone is wearing one, and just remember doing so, can help protect your neighbor.

“So, it is really important to physical distance or social distance, wear masks and wash hands whenever possible,” Dr. Bala said.