Even as millions of doses of COVID -19 vaccines are being pumped into the arms of many persons across the globe and many anxiously await their turn, mask-wearing continues to be touted as a major deterrent in the spread of the deadly virus. The vaccines developed to date have varied rates of efficacy; this is cause for concern especially as the virus continues to mutate and variants emerge which further threaten the efficacy of vaccines. Therefore, even with the vaccine, other safety measures such as mask-wearing should be continued.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and renown scientist and immunologist Dr Anthony Fauci have been reiterating the call for mask-wearing and have even strongly recommended the doubling of masks. Ironically, these calls come as reports have surfaced that millions of counterfeit N95 masks have been distributed to health care workers in the US. The N95 mask is the one most highly recommended because of its effectiveness in filtering out 95% of the particles associated with carrying the coronavirus. 3m the manufacturer of N95s says that since the start of the pandemic over 10 million counterfeits have been seized. However, reports are that over 1.9 million fakes have made it into health care facilities. This has understandably raised concerns among health care workers.
ECRI, a non-profit that helps health care providers assess medical technology, has tested some of the fakes and have found that they filter out more than 95 % of the 0.3 micron they are supposed to catch, CNBC reports. The engineering director of ECRI Chris Lavanchy says the fakes also have “higher breathing resistance than expected and such resistance can fatigue the person wearing the mask or cause the mask to lift off the face, letting in unfiltered air.”
At the start of the pandemic, the use of N95s was reserved for health care workers so retailers were not at liberty to sell them to the general public. Despite this reservation, there was a shortage; even as manufacturers increased production, countries like the US were forced to turn to alternatives such as the KN95 which came out of China. However, the KN95s were found to be 40 to 70 % less effective than the N95. Agents at major US ports of entry are being kept busy trying to curtail the influx of fake N95 masks.