Cochrane Review: Masks Aren't Backed By Science
A massive review shows masking policies didn't stop COVID or the flu.
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Updated Feb 5, 7:00pm: Added comments from the review’s lead author Tom Jefferson.
A recent systematic review on masking during the COVID pandemic just came out from the Cochrane Library. Cochrane reviews whether medical interventions, like community mask mandates, actually interrupt the transmission of respiratory viruses.
In this review, they looked at masking, hand washing, social distancing, anti-septic use, and other barriers like visors, gowns and gloves.
Obviously the big debate here has been around community mask mandates. Perhaps unsurprisingly to some, the review indicated that community mask recommendations are not supported by scientific data or evidence. No evidence was found showing they work. It doesn’t matter the type of mask either. The evidence simply isn’t there.
As stated by one of the lead authors, Tom Jefferson, in an interview with investigative journalist Maryanne Demasi:
Well, it’s [the review] an update from our November 2020 review and the evidence really didn't change from 2020 to 2023. There’s still no evidence that masks are effective during a pandemic.
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The review gathered 276,000 participants in randomized clinical trials (RCTs) or cluster RCTs to determine whether community masking had any benefit in reducing flu-like or Covid-like illness. The conclusion: they do nothing. There is no reduction in either.
Have a look at the data below that is presented with a 95% confidence interval.
This is not looking at one study that shows benefits, or one study that shows no benefits. This is a meta-analysis. It took all of the best research we have with regards to masking and determined what the science truly shows. Meta-analyses are often one of the best ways to truly get clear on a question regarding medical interventions.
The reviews authors did say that the only way they could get better data is if they had done the RCTs themselves to truly find out, but that as of this point, existing RCTs don’t indicate a benefit.
Some might critically think and say, “well what about N95 masks, they are the gold standard right?” It’s a fair question, but the review addresses that question rather well:
”Four studies were in healthcare workers, and one small study was in the community. Compared with wearing medical or surgical masks, wearing N95/P2 respirators probably makes little to no difference in how many people have confirmed flu (5 studies; 8407 people); and may make little to no difference in how many people catch a flu‐like illness (5 studies; 8407 people), or respiratory illness (3 studies; 7799 people). Unwanted effects were not well‐reported; discomfort was mentioned.“
This is saying that not only did they not show evidence of working, but people reported discomfort in having to wear them long term.
This was known about respiratory viruses prior to the pandemic. The science has not changed, it has only been proven further. During the pandemic health authorities were providing the wrong advice, not backed by science, and they should have known better.
As lead author Tom Jefferson states:
Yes, well, governments completely failed to do the right thing and demand better evidence. At the beginning of the pandemic, there were some voices who said masks did not work and then suddenly the narrative changed.
Government policy was primarily based on poor observational studies that could be tailored to show ‘benefit’ with the rise and fall of cases that are natural to any community viral spread. In essence, the bad science was made to ‘fit’ the policy. Prior science was thrown out the window, and as scientists spoke up about the ridiculousness of the policies, they were silenced.
Here at The Pulse, we lost videos on YouTube, were censored on Facebook and lost revenue. All for reporting on something that was correct.
Even Anthony Fauci and the CDC direction Robert Redfield knew what the truth was the whole time. Remember when both said masking doesn’t work in the early days of the pandemic? They said this because that’s what the science indicated about respiratory viruses. What made them change their minds to support unscientific policy? That’s anyone’s guess.
Fear, propaganda, and media campaigns took over from there. Anxiety and panic was artificially created amongst the public for no good reason, and we are still feeling the effects of this today.
People were afraid to be around people who didn’t wear masks because of misguided advice that produced fear from fallacy. People who chose not to mask because they knew the research didn’t support it were heavily discriminated against, and hatred towards them primarily originated from government figures and media.
Does this sound like good leadership?
Much of this could have been solved early on. Health authorities like the CDC or NIAID could have run RCTs to determine if masking truly worked given the massive divides mask mandates were creating amongst the public. If these public servants truly represent the people, why didn’t they respond respectfully and run RCTs on the subject? They instead cherry-picked data.
In the absence of certainty governments have the budgets and ability to move closer to certainty through good science. But our health authorities did not choose this path. Instead they chose bad science and drove communities and neighbours apart.
As Jefferson states:
There's no evidence that they [masks] do work, that’s right. It’s possible they could work in some settings….we’d know if we’d done trials. All you needed was for Tedros [from WHO] to declare it’s a pandemic and they could have randomised half of the United Kingdom, or half of Italy, to masks and the other half to no masks. But they didn’t. Instead, they ran around like headless chickens.
Because of evidence-less policies, we now have to heal as communities and recover from economic damage that was not necessary. Either political leaders lost their minds and reason during the pandemic, or the point was to create a bad societal situation. Given all the facts, it’s reasonable to explore that possibility.
As a closing note, hopefully we learned that treating each other poorly during the pandemic and discriminating against those who made different decisions was not a healthy way forward. Hopefully we can shift that behaviour and not attack ‘the other side’ while this COVID narrative continues to crumble.
Read the Cochrane review for yourself to dive deeper.