The White House Coronavirus Task Force coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx, on Wednesday dismissed the notion that the Trump administration was considering a strategy of allowing Americans to become infected with coronavirus in order to reach “herd immunity.”
“Neither I, nor anybody in the administration, is willing to sacrifice American lives for herd immunity. We’ll get to herd immunity through a vaccine and that’s the right way to do it,” Birx told reporters during a briefing at St. Mary Mercy Hospital in Livonia, Michigan.
Birx was responding to news reports that new White House pandemic adviser Scott Atlas, a physician who is a fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, had advocated for the Trump administration to lift all social and business restrictions aimed at stopping infections from spreading.
The United States, which has not had a coordinated federal-led response to the virus, has recorded more than 6 million COVID-19 cases and 185,000 deaths, both the highest in the world.
The nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, told MSNBC on Wednesday that the White House was not using a “herd immunity” strategy and was relying on identification of COVID-19 cases, isolation and contact tracing.
Once enough individuals have been infected and become immune, others are less likely to be infected, creating what health officials call “herd immunity.”
“I would not be here if the White House believed that herd immunity was an option for America,” Birx said.
Economic shutdowns and measures such as extensive testing and social distancing have curbed the virus’s spread in many countries. Others, like Sweden, have attempted to let the outbreak run its course in the hopes of creating herd immunity.
Sweden and the United States are both among the nations with the highest rate of coronavirus-related deaths per capita.
President Donald Trump in August said Atlas was working with the White House on the coronavirus.