Fauci: Herd Immunity? 'Just Forget About That'; 'We Don't Know What That Number Is' for COVID

Susan Jones | May 5, 2021 | 4:53am EDT
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People line up at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland, which was transformed in a Covid-19 mass vaccination site on March 20, 2021. (Photo by ERIC BARADAT/AFP via Getty Images)
People line up at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland, which was transformed in a Covid-19 mass vaccination site on March 20, 2021. (Photo by ERIC BARADAT/AFP via Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) - Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, on Tuesday said the phrase "herd immunity" is "elusive terminology."

"I think we should just forget about that," Fauci told MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace, who asked him to clarify if the goal of mass vaccination is herd immunity (she said "herd mentality," then corrected herself).

"So, I have been encouraging people of late to really not focus on that elusive terminology," Fauci said:

The concept of herd immunity is, when you get a number of people vaccinated, plus the people who have been infected, recovered, and are now protected, that you get so many of them, that you get a veil or a blanket of protection where, when the virus gets into the society, it has no place to go, it has no place to infect anybody. There are still people who are vulnerable, but it's very difficult for the virus to find them. That's what herd immunity is.

The herd immunity threshold is a percentage of -- what percentage of the population needs to be protected in order to get this blanket of full protection? The fact is, Nicolle, we don't know what that number is for SARS-CoV-2. We know what it is for measles because we have been dealing with measles for decades and decades.

So, rather than focusing on this elusive threshold of herd immunity, what we have been saying and what President Biden said this afternoon was, let's aim for 70 percent of the population to get at least one dose by the Fourth of July. That is a doable goal. It's challenging. It's not going to be easy, but we can do it.

So, what I have been saying is, instead of worrying about, are we or are we not going to get this elusive number, let's get as many people vaccinated as quickly as we possibly can.

And the one thing that I will guarantee, because we know this as a fact, not as a hypothesis, but, as a fact, that the more people you get vaccinated, the more and more the infection rate is going to go down. We have seen that with other infections. And we have seen that with other countries.

I mean, I gave a press conference a week or so ago where we showed the data from Israel is that, as the vaccination numbers went up, the infections came right down. So, that's what we want to do. We want to do as many people vaccinated as we possibly can, and not focus on an elusive number that nobody even knows what that number is.

In December, Fauci began raising his herd immunity estimate from 60-70 percent to as much as "80-plus percent."

According to a Dec. 24, 2020 New York Times article:

Recently, a figure to whom millions of Americans look for guidance — Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, an adviser to both the Trump administration and the incoming Biden administration — has begun incrementally raising his herd-immunity estimate.

In the pandemic’s early days, Dr. Fauci tended to cite the same 60 to 70 percent estimate that most experts did. About a month ago, he began saying “70, 75 percent” in television interviews. And last week, in an interview with CNBC News, he said “75, 80, 85 percent” and “75 to 80-plus percent.”

In a telephone interview the next day, Dr. Fauci acknowledged that he had slowly but deliberately been moving the goal posts. He is doing so, he said, partly based on new science, and partly on his gut feeling that the country is finally ready to hear what he really thinks.

Hard as it may be to hear, he said, he believes that it may take close to 90 percent immunity to bring the virus to a halt — almost as much as is needed to stop a measles outbreak.

Also See:
Do COVID Vaccines Produce Immunity As Defined by the CDC? CDC Says, 'We're Still Learning'


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