MISSING CONTEXT: WHO says face shields are not effective

At a glance
  • Claim: The World Health Organization (WHO) says face shields are not effective in protecting against COVID-19.
  • Rating: MISSING CONTEXT
  • The facts: According to the WHO, face shields should not replace face masks because they are not as effective in preventing COVID-19. However, face shields can still provide protection to the eyes, and should be used together with a face mask.
  • Why we fact-checked this: Multiple pages posted this claim, as spotted through social media monitoring tool CrowdTangle. One post containing this claim has gained 4,400 reactions, 388 comments, and 1,700 shares, as of writing.
Complete details

An image posted by multiple Facebook pages misleadingly claims that the World Health Organization (WHO) says face shields are ineffective in protecting an individual against COVID-19.

The image reads: “Tanging Pilipinas lang required ang Face Shield. Kahit sabi ng WHO, Hindi ito epektibo. Asawa ni Bong Go, ang supplier ng Face Shield galing China.” (The Philippines is the only country that requires face shields, even though the WHO says these are not effective. [Senator] Bong Go’s wife is the supplier of face shields coming from China.)

One post containing this claim has gained 4,400 reactions, 388 comments, and 1,700 shares, as of writing.

This claim is missing context.

The latest interim guidance uploaded by WHO on December 1 reiterated that face shields should not replace face masks because they are not as effective in preventing COVID-19. 

By using only face shields as protection against the virus, an individual may still get infected. The facial area – such as the eyes, nose, and mouth – can be in contact with small respiratory droplets through the gap between the equipment and the face, which may lead to COVID-19 infection.

However, the WHO specifies that face shields can be used as an eye protection against respiratory droplets, in conjunction with face masks, specifically medical masks. 

“In the context of non-availability or difficulties wearing a non-medical mask (in persons with cognitive, respiratory or hearing impairments, for example), face shields may be considered as an alternative, noting that they are inferior to masks with respect to droplet transmission and prevention. If face shields are to be used, ensure proper design to cover the sides of the face and below the chin,” says the WHO. 

Christopher Sulmonte, project administrator of the biocontainment unit at Johns Hopkins Hospital, told The Associated Press that face shields are also considered an extra protection for the eyes and a preventative equipment that acts as a physical barrier.

The issue about face shields emerged after Manila Mayor Isko Moreno issued a statement, urging the national government to drop the policy requiring the wearing of face shields in public places. (READ: Palace, DILG thumb down Isko’s suggestion to scrap ‘face shield’ policy

“Kuya” Kim Atienza, the man in the photo, said in a Facebook post on June 6 that he was not behind the claims nor the creation of the meme. – Nicole Anne Perez/Rappler.com

Nicole Anne Perez is a Rappler intern. This fact check was reviewed by a member of Rappler's research team and a senior editor. Learn more about Rappler's internship program here.