NYT: Fauci admits 'moving the goalposts' on percentage needed for herd immunity

Fauci tells NYT he 'nudged up' his estimate for required rate of immunity when he saw more people express willingness to get vaccinated.

Tal Polon ,

Anthony Fauci
Anthony Fauci

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious diseases in the US, admitted that he had over time deliberately “moved the goalposts” on immunity rates needed to achieve herd immunity to coronavirus, The New York Times reported.

Herd immunity is said to be achieved when the spread of a disease is stabilized after a certain percentage of the population has achieved immunity.

According to the report, while Fauci had “tended to cite the same 60 to 70 percent estimate that most experts did” in the early days of the Covid-19 outbreak, about a month ago he began saying that “70,75 percent” would have to achieve immunity.

Then, speaking to CNBC a week and a half ago, Fauci said “75, 80, 85 percent” and “75 to 80-plus percent” would need immunity.

Speaking to the New York Times on Thursday, Fauci said the estimate could be almost as high as 90 percent.

Explaining his gradual increase in estimate, Fauci said he had been hesitant to declare too high a percentage needed for herd immunity when much of the public was hesitant about taking the vaccine, but “nudged up” the percentage when more people expressed willingness to get vaccinated.

“When polls said only about half of all Americans would take a vaccine, I was saying herd immunity would take 70 to 75 percent,” Dr. Fauci 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.”

“We need to have some humility here,” he added. “We really don’t know what the real number is. I think the real range is somewhere between 70 to 90 percent. But, I’m not going to say 90 percent,” he said, so as not to be discouraging to Americans, as he is not sure there will be enough willingness to get a Covid-19 vaccine to achieve that goal.

He added that 90 percent or above immunity is the range needed to curb the spread of measles, and “I’d bet my house that Covid isn’t as contagious as measles.”