By Al Edwards
Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a senior member of President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 taskforce Anthony Fauci earlier today poured scorn on the idea of the U.S. looking to herd immunity as a way of fighting the deadly virus.
President Trump is embracing the herd immunity theory and the White House is looking at ways it can be implemented. Senior scientific advisor to the President, Dr Scott Atlas is an advocate of herd immunity and sees it as the way for the country to go.
According to the Mayo Clinic in the United States, “herd immunity occurs when a large portion of a community (the herd) becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. As a result, the whole community becomes protected – not just who are immune.
“Often a percentage of the population must be capable of getting the disease in order for it to spread. This is called a threshold proportion. If the proportion of the population that is immune to the disease is greater than the threshold, the spread of the disease will decline. This is known as the herd immunity threshold.”
The thinking with this is that the young and the strong build antibodies or gain sufficient immunity thus allowing protection of vulnerable people (elders and those with pre-existing conditions). This it is said will allow the virus to be contained among populations.
Speaking during an interview on American television on October 15, Fauci said: “The idea that we have the power to protect the vulnerable is total nonsense because history has shown that’s not the case. If you let things rip and let the infection go – no masks, crowds, that quite frankly is ridiculous.”
So far COVID-19 has killed more than one million people across the world with over 38.5 million reported to be diagnosed with the virus. While the death rate has declined in the U.S., infections there continue to be on the rise.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), has said that herd immunity is “scientifically and ethically problematic”.
“Never in the history of public health has herd immunity been used as a strategy for responding to an outbreak, let alone a pandemic,” said the WHO boss.
A group of eminent researchers have denounced the herd immunity approach in a letter published in the esteemed Lancet.
But while there are scientists who caution against the herd immunity solution, earlier this month a group from Harvard, Oxford and Stamford universities put their names to the published ‘Great Barrington Declaration’ calling on the world to go the herd immunity route.
It read in part: “The most compassionate approach that balances the risks and benefits of reaching herd immunity is to allow those who are at a minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection while better protecting those who are at the highest risk.”
Fauci disagrees, arguing: “What that will do is there will be so many people in the community that you can’t shelter, that you can’t protect, who are going to get sick and get serious consequences.
“If you talk to anybody who has experience in epidemiology and infectious diseases they’ll tell you it’s risky and you’ll wind up with many more infections of vulnerable people, which will lead to hospitalisations and death. I think we have to look that square in the eye and say that is nonsense.”
Sweden attempted the herd immunity approach earlier this year without the hoped for success.
Speaking at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Fauci reasoned: “If already 200,000 people have died and you want to let things go to get hard immunity, you’re going to get a lot of suffering and a lot of death. If we get herd immunity, let’s get it with a vaccine and not by letting everyone get infected.”