Dec 25, 2020 - Health

NYT: Fauci acknowledges moving goalposts on herd immunity from COVID-19

Fauci stands in the White House.

President Trump passes Dr. Anthony Fauci after a coronavirus task force briefing on March 26. Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Dr. Anthony Fauci has long cited 60% to 70% as the level of COVID infection/vaccination the country would need to achieve herd immunity — for the disease to fade and life to return to normal, writes the New York Times' Donald G. McNeil Jr.

But, but, but: "About a month ago, he began saying '70, 75 percent' in television interviews. And last week, in an interview with CNBC News, he said '75, 80, 85 percent' and '75 to 80-plus percent,'" McNeil writes.

What's new: "In a telephone interview," McNeil continues, "Fauci acknowledged that he had slowly but deliberately been moving the goalposts."

  • "He is doing so, he said, partly based on new science, and partly on his gut feeling that the country is finally ready to hear what he really thinks."

Fauci's confession:

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

Go deeper: Keep reading McNeil's "How Much Herd Immunity Is Enough?" (subscription.)

Go deeper