White House coronavirus task force member Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Moncef Slaoui, chief adviser of Operation Warp Speed, offered conflicting takes on Sunday regarding herd immunity as a result of COVID-19 vaccines.
Herd immunity has been pushed by Dr. Scott Atlas, Trump’s favorite COVID-19 adviser who opposes lockdowns and often espouses Trump rosy view on the pandemic that has killed more than 250,000 Americans thus far.
Last week, President-elect Joe Biden rebuked Trump on Wednesday for standing in the way of his formal transition, especially because the sitting president’s refusal to concede will put the distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine during the Biden administration “behind by weeks or months.”
Earlier this year, Trump pressured administration health officials to release a COVID-19 vaccine so that he could have bragging rights ahead of the presidential election earlier this month. COVID-19 vaccines have yet to be released, although talk of a vaccine distribution in the next several months has heightened upon Pfizer’s and Moderna’s recent announcements that their COVID-19 vaccines have preliminarily shown nearly 95% efficacy in trials.
In September, Slaoui told Science in an interview that there has been “absolutely no interference” amid concerns of political meddling as Trump pushed for a pre-election COVID-19 vaccine, adding that he would resign if at any time that became an issue or if he felt pressure from FDA regulators to push a half-baked vaccine out before it had been adequately tested.
On Sunday, Slaoui was asked on CNN when the first vaccination in the country will happen.
“I would expect maybe on day two after approval, on the 11th or on the 12th of December, hopefully, the first people will be immunized across the United States, across all states, in all the areas where the state departments of health will have told us where to deliver the vaccine,” Slaoui said.
Pressed on how many Americans need to be immunized before normalcy returns, Slaoui replied that given the nearly 95% efficacy from COVID-19 vaccine trials thus far, it would take “95 percent, 70 percent or so of the population being immunized” to “allow for true herd immunity to take place.”
Slaoui claimed that such a scenario is “likely to happen somewhere in the month of May or something like that” based on Operation Warp Speed’s plans.
“I really hope and look forward to seeing that the level of negative perception of the vaccine decreases and people’s acceptance increase,” Slaoui said. “That’s going to be critical to help us. Most people need to be immunized before we can go back to a normal life.”
Dr. Moncef Slaoui, chief scientific adviser to Operation Warp Speed, says he anticipates that thanks to vaccines, life in the US could return to normal around May pic.twitter.com/PpSDGYzpSb
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) November 22, 2020
Fauci, who the White House has launched efforts to discredit as his public statements often don’t feed into Trump’s happy tune of downplaying the COVID-19 pandemic, refuted Slaoui’s optimistic projection for herd immunity as a result of a vaccine.
During an interview on CNN, Fauci was asked about Slaoui saying that herd immunity in the country could be achieved in May when the vaccine is distributed.
“You know, I don’t think so,” Fauci said, before adding that he “totally agrees” with Slaoui. “But there are a couple of things that go into the effectiveness of a vaccine program, a highly efficacious vaccine, and we’re there. We have two of them that have a 95% efficacy.”
Fauci added that the “other part of the equation” is how many people get vaccinated.
“So if you have a highly efficacious vaccine and only a relatively small 40-50% of the people get vaccinated, you’re not going to get the herd immunity you need,” Fauci said. “What we do need is we need to get as many people as possible vaccinated.”
Could life return to normal in May? @NIAIDNews' Anthony #Fauci says: “I don’t think so,” and notes that herd immunity can only happen IF greater than 40-50% of Americans get vaccinated pic.twitter.com/LIwyFSsuAd
— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) November 22, 2020