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Fauci doesn’t support herd immunity approach to resolving pandemic

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci told MSNBC he disagreed with a proposed White House tactic to push for herd immunity as a response to the coronavirus. 
  • The Washington Post reported that White House health adviser Scott Atlas had begun urging the administration to embrace herd immunity as a way to stop the ongoing coronavirus outbreak in the US. 
  • Atlas has denied pushing the strategy, but President Donald Trump has publicly acknowledged it, despite warnings from top experts. 
  • Herd immunity happens when enough people in a population become immune to a virus to stop it from continuing to spread, but experts have warned it would cost more lives than have the pandemic has already claimed. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said he disagreed with a proposed White House tactic to push for herd immunity as a response to the coronavirus.

“We’re not there yet,” Fauci told MSNBC. “That’s not a fundamental strategy that we’re using.”

“The fundamental strategy that we clearly articulate and go by through the [White House coronavirus] task force is to try to prevent as many infections as you possibly can prevent,” he added.

His remarks come after The Washington Post reported Dr. Scott Atlas, President Donald Trump’s new health adviser, had begun urging Trump’s administration to embrace herd immunity as a way to stop the ongoing coronavirus outbreak in the US.

Atlas is a physician and does not have expertise in infectious diseases or epidemiology, the Post reported.

Business Insider’s Morgan McFall-Johnsen previously reported that the herd immunity strategy would allow a majority of residents to become infected with the coronavirus so that there could be widespread resistance to COVID-19.

The most likely way to reach herd immunity is through mass vaccination, but experts have said that without a vaccine, the herd immunity approach would mean far more deaths and illness than what the US has already gone through.

The US has recorded over 6 million COVID-19 cases with more than 185,000 deaths, the most of any country.

Herd immunity for the coronavirus would need to be somewhere between 50 to 70% of the US population having resistance to the virus, which means about 165 million to 230 million people would need to be infected and develop immunity.

With the death rate of about 1%, McFall-Johnsen reported it means 2.3 million people could die under a herd immunity approach.

Experts including Fauci have said this process would cause unnecessary deaths.

“This is simply wrong,” Marc Lipsitch, an epidemiologist at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, said on Twitter on Monday in response to the Post report. “Herd immunity is not a strategy or a solution. It is surrender to a preventable virus.”

Fauci told MSNBC that officials “certainly are not wanting to wait back and just let people get infected so that you can develop herd immunity. That’s certainly not my approach.”

After the Post published its report, Atlas told Fox News host Tucker Carlson that he wasn’t pushing for a herd immunity tactic in the White House.

“The news is out of control,” Atlas said. “There’s news, there’s opinion and then there’s overt lies — and that was one of those overt lies.”

“It’s certainly not Dr. Birx’s approach or any of the other people that I know of on that task force,” Atlas said, referring to Fauci’s colleagues on the White House coronavirus task force.

The adviser’s sharp denial came as a contrast to comments Trump made during an interview with Fox News’ Laura Ingraham that mentioned the strategy.

“Once you get to a certain number, you know — we use the word herd, right?” Trump said. “Once you get to a certain number, it’s going to go away.”

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