Dr. Anthony Fauci now says as much as 90 percent of the population may need to get vaccinated or infected to achieve herd immunity against COVID-19 — admitting in a new interview that he has been intentionally raising the bar based, in part, on what he thinks the country is ready to hear.
“We really don’t know what the real number is,” the nation’s top infectious disease expert told the New York Times.
“I think the real range is somewhere between 70 to 90 percent. But, I’m not going to say 90 percent.”
The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases acknowledged that he’s been intentionally upping that number as science’s understanding of the virus has changed — and as Americans have become more confident in coronavirus vaccines.
“When polls said only about half of all Americans would take a vaccine, I was saying herd immunity would take 70 to 75 percent,” he said.
“Then, when newer surveys said 60 percent or more would take it, I thought, ‘I can nudge this up a bit,’ so I went to 80, 85.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci rolls up his sleeve as he prepares to receive his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday.Patrick Semansky/Pool via AP
He said he’s comfortable drawing the line at 90 percent herd immunity because he doesn’t believe the virus is more infectious than the measles, which falls in that range.
“I’d bet my house that COVID isn’t as contagious as measles,” he said.
Around 46 percent of Americans plan to take the vaccine at the earliest available opportunity, while 32 percent are willing to wait for others to get the shot first, according to a recent USA Today-Suffolk University survey.