Dr. Anthony Fauci admits that he was not entirely forthcoming with the number of vaccinations required for herd immunity to the COVID-19 coronavirus.
In an interview with the New York Times, Fauci, who celebrated his birthday on Thursday, said that he played with previous estimates to subtly encourage more Americans to be vaccinated.
“When polls said only about half of all Americans would take a vaccine, I was saying herd immunity would take 70 to 75 per cent. Then, when newer surveys said 60 per cent or more would take it, I thought, ‘I can nudge this up a bit,’ so I went to 80, 85,” he said.
Epidemiologists estimate that anywhere between 60 to 70 per cent of the US population would need to be vaccinated to accomplish herd immunity to the coronavirus. According to Reuters, the World Health Organization estimates that immunizing just two-thirds of the population could halt the disease.
“World Health Organization experts have also pointed to a 65-70 per cent vaccine coverage rate as a way to reach population immunity through vaccination,” Reuters reports.
Likewise, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) estimates a herd immunity threshold of 67 per cent for its models. Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the country’s COVID-19 lockdowns could be lifted if 60% to 70% of its population acquired immunity, “either via a COVID-19 vaccine or through infection.”
Fauci has repeated similar numbers in the past but has recently provided higher figures in interviews. Fauci told the Times said that “the real range is somewhere between 70 to 90 per cent. But, I’m not going to say 90 per cent.”
Fauci is not entirely to blame for his inability to predict the exact percentage needed for the population to acquire herd immunity as the data is based on simulated models that do not account for the transmissibility of newer strains of the disease. The more infectious the disease, the higher rate of vaccination is required to reach the threshold. Measles, which is more infectious than the coronavirus, needs a herd immunity of at least 90 percent.
He said that initial estimates of 60 to 70 per cent were based on early data of the virus.
This would not be the first time that Fauci has not been entirely forthcoming with the public. In March, Fauci, who directs the NIAID, dismissed mask use to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. He later admitted that masks were helpful, and only claimed otherwise to prevent the public from stocking up on protective equipment to protect the diminishing supply and reserve them for first responders.