The concept of herd immunity is controversial and many experts have already explained the consequences. But according to a batch of emails made public this week, a top official appointed by President Donald Trump urged health officers to adopt the controversial approach and allow millions of Americans to be infected by the novel Coronavirus.
"There is no other way, we need to establish herd, and it only comes about allowing the non-high-risk groups to expose themselves to the virus," one of the emails says. This email was written by then-science adviser Paul Alexander on July 4 to Health and Human Services assistant secretary for public affairs Michael Caputo, and six other officials.
'We Want Them Infected'
"Infants, kids, teens, young people, young adults, middle-aged with no conditions, etc. have zero to little risk....so we use them to develop herd...we want them infected..." added Alexander. He wrote another email on July 24 and sent it to Stephen Hahn, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner, Caputo, and eight other senior officials. In that email, Alexander said, it may be that "it will be best if we open up and flood the zone and let the kids and young folk get infected".
According to Politico, it was Trump appointee Caputo who subsequently asked Alexander to research on achieving herd immunity, which according to many scientists could be dangerous and a deadly approach. In another email, sent on July 27 to Robert Redfield, the CDC director, Alexander wrote: "We essentially took off the battlefield the most potent weapon we had...younger healthy people, children, teens, young people". In that email, he added that these people "needed to... infect themselves, spread it around, develop immunity, and help stop the spread".
Achieving Herd Immunity
Some officials believe that when Alexander, the top deputy of Caputo, made these recommendations, he had the backing of the White House. But top Trump officials have repeatedly denied that the idea of herd immunity was the White House's approach to the COVID-19 pandemic. HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in a hearing before the House coronavirus subcommittee on October 2 that the approach was not the strategy of the US government.
Jim Clyburn, a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives from South Carolina, told Politico that as the Coronavirus spread throughout the US, these officials "callously wrote, 'who cares' and 'we want them infected'". According to him the healthcare officials privately admitted that they "'always knew' the President's policies would cause a 'rise' in cases, and they plotted to blame the spread of the virus on career scientists". However, the latest stats showed that the US now has over 17 million Coronavirus cases and more than 310,000 deaths related to COVID-19.
America's top immunologists Dr. Anthony Fauci earlier cautioned that the US cannot wait to reach herd immunity to the SARS-CoV-2 as it would cause "so much suffering and death". At that time, he also explained that to naturally reach herd immunity, it would cause "so much suffering and death in the country, it would be unacceptable". Fauci, who was picked by President-elect Joe Biden to become his chief medical adviser, added: "If you want to get to a 75 percent protection, just multiply that and you see how many deaths you have to have herd immunity through natural infection".