CNN host Dana Bash pressed Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on Sunday over recent remarks that he made about the percentage of the population that would have to receive the COVID-19 vaccination for the U.S. to reach herd immunity.
“In the pandemic’s early days, Dr. Fauci tended to cite the same 60 to 70 percent estimate that most experts did,” The New York Times reported last week. “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.'”
The Times reported that Fauci said during an interview that he thinks that up to 90 percent of the population might need to be vaccinated for the U.S. to reach herd immunity.
“Fauci said that weeks ago, he had hesitated to publicly raise his estimate because many Americans seemed hesitant about vaccines, which they would need to accept almost universally in order for the country to achieve herd immunity,” the Times added. “Now that some polls are showing that many more Americans are ready, even eager, for vaccines, he said he felt he could deliver the tough message that the return to normal might take longer than anticipated.”
On Sunday, Bash pressed Fauci on the issue and asked him why he was not “straight with the American people about this to begin with.”
“No, actually, Dana, I don’t think it can be interpreted as being straight or not,” he responded. “We have to realize that we have to be humble and realize what we don’t know. These are pure estimates. And the calculations that I made — 70, 75 percent, it’s a range. The range is gonna be somewhere between 70 and 85 percent.”
“The reason I first started saying 70, 75, I brought it up to 85 — that’s not a big leap to go from 75 to 85 — it was really based on calculations and pure extrapolations from measles,” he continued. “Measles is about 98 percent effective vaccine. The COVID-19 vaccine is about 94, 95 percent. When you get below 90 percent of the population vaccinated with measles, you start seeing a breakthrough against the herd immunity, people starting to get infected, like we saw in the upper New York state and in New York City with the Orthodox Jewish group, when we had measles outbreak.”
“So, I made a calculation that COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, is not as nearly as transmissible as measles. Measles is the most transmissible infection you can imagine,” Fauci added. “So, I would imagine that you would need something a little bit less than the 90 percent. That’s where I got to the 85. But I think we all have to be honest and humble. Nobody really knows for sure, but I think 70 to 85 percent for herd immunity for COVID-19 is a reasonable estimate. And, in fact, most of my epidemiology colleagues agree with me.”
.@DanaBashCNN presses Dr. Fauci on his comments about “moving the goal posts” on herd immunity based on polling. "Why weren’t you straight with the American people about this to begin with?” she asks.
He deflects multiple times. She presses and he says it’s just a “guesstimate." pic.twitter.com/kquQvlwZ8j
— Steve Krakauer (@SteveKrak) December 27, 2020