(CNN) – Data obtained exclusively by CNN shows that interest in getting vaccinated against COVID-19 increased just after Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, announced two weeks ago that the vaccinated people could remove their masks.
“This shows that incentives are important,” said Dr. Jonathan Reiner, professor of medicine and surgery at the George Washington University School of Medicine. “People needed a carrot, and the carrot was the ability to remove the mask in most settings.”
The data comes from vacines.gov, where people search for vaccination sites by zip code.
On the afternoon of May 13, just after Walensky’s announcement, the number of visits to the site began to rise, reaching its second-highest number of visitors since the website launched on April 30.
“It’s amazing, really amazing,” said John Brownstein, co-founder of VaccineFinder, which powers vacines.gov.
A few hours after Walensky’s announcement, Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, told CNN that “the CDC’s decision was not an incentive for people to get vaccinated, but it was actually it could have the indirect effect of inducing people to get vaccinated. ‘
In the days that followed, Walensky’s announcement became controversial, with some saying that it might not incentivize people to get vaccinated and could actually increase the spread of covid-19, as people who haven’t been vaccinated could be dishonest and take off their masks.
So far, CDC data shows that the number of COVID-19 cases in the US has been steadily declining since May 13.