NEWS RELEASE                                                                                    February 2022

Substantial Mask Market Likely for Next Five Years

Politicians tell U.S. constituents that we are entering the endemic phase of the market and will have to deal with COVID as we do the flu. Unfortunately, much of the world is still in the pandemic phase.

The market for face masks is evolving. In the future masks will be used effectively as needed and not ineffectively and indiscriminately. Tight fitting efficient masks will be used where there is the biggest benefit /cost ratio and considering discomfort as part of the cost.

Visitors arriving in Beijing for the Olympics are greeted by service personnel in full hazmat suits. Everyone is fully masked. China has used lockdowns to avoid COVID. The vaccines they have employed are probably no better than 50% effective against Omicron. This variant is highly transmissible. As a result, the experts are predicting an infection surge in China.

Tight fitting efficient masks will help minimize the impact. However, there will be a critical need for more efficient vaccines

Indonesia is in a crisis with a surge of the Omicron variant and Chinese vaccines which have only been given to half the people. The poorer countries of the world have only vaccinated 12% of their people and have used the dead virus vaccines which are not proving effective against Omicron.

The other end of the spectrum is the U.S. where more than 50% of the people are fully vaccinated and boosted with mRNA vaccines.  Do these people need masks? There is a benefit/cost analysis needed. The cost includes several weeks of feeling ill but little risk of hospitalization. The benefit is the avoidance of mask discomfort.

This benefit/cost ratio changes with the setting. At an indoor event with lots of unvaccinated people the ratio is high. Outdoors with few people around it is low. It is reasonable to think that a person would wear a tight-fitting mask 100 hours per year to reduce the chance of being ill for two weeks from 2% to 0.2%. But many people who are risk takers will not worry about a 2% chance. Others will want to reduce the risk even further.  

China is a special case. Tight fitting efficient masks will be supplied. Based on experience to date the country will accept a low benefit/cost ratio. As a result, the market for tight fitting efficient masks for domestic use will be between $1-2 billion per year.

The U.N is trying to obtain $23 billion from wealthy countries for vaccines and PPE. There are logistical problems with the vaccines whereas masks are more readily available.

McIlvaine is making specific forecasts by region based on

  • percentage of people vaccinated
  • effectiveness of vaccines
  • health consequences of the infection relative to vaccine status
  • the different virus strains including a new omicron variant
  • mask availability versus cost
  • risk choices by individuals


Global View

There are 8 billion people in the world

  • 100% are susceptible to at least a mild reinfection
  • 6 billion are susceptible to hospitalization due to lack of a vaccine which is effective on Omicron or for other health reasons
  • 500 million would have the ability and interest for protection
  • the high-risk exposure is only 100 hours per year
  • the cost per mask hour $0.25
  • yearly mask expenditure is 500 million people x $25 = $12.5 billion per year as the base case
  • with all the variables the low case could be $3 billion per year and the high case would be $25 billion per year


The Biden Administration has started issuing free N95 masks. 400 million will be issued free of charge. They are becoming available at pharmacies and other outlets for the free vaccine.  Recipients are limited to 3 masks.

The dominant form of Omicron, known as BA.1, continues to account for the vast majority of confirmed new COVID-19 infections globally, but another subvariant, known as BA.2, has begun to outcompete it in some places.

Some early studies have shown BA.2 appears to be more transmissible than the dominant BA.1 subvariant – leading scientists to ramp up their investigations.

The strain is being closely watched in countries including Denmark, India and Nepal where it has become dominant, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The World Health Organization (WHO) is urging wealthier countries to step up and end the COVID-19 pandemic as a global health emergency by helping low and middle-income nations obtain tests, treatments and vaccines.

The appeal asks 55 of the world’s richest nations to provide $23 billion in funding. It described the disparities in access to COVID-19 tools as “vast”, noting for example that only 10 percent of people in low-income countries have received at least one vaccine dose.

For more information on mask market forecasts please contact

Bob McIlvaine

847 226 2391

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.