Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and one of the leading experts on the White House Coronavirus Task Force, defended comments he made last week in which he admitted he has been subtly shifting the goalposts regarding the coronavirus pandemic.
In an interview with the New York Times last week, Fauci acknowledged that his earlier prediction that 60-70% of Americans would need the coronavirus vaccine for the U.S. to reach herd immunity was off by a wide margin.
That number is actually closer to 90%, Fauci argued, noting that he didn’t want to say as much at the beginning because the country wasn’t yet “ready to hear what he really thinks.”
“When polls said only about half of all Americans would take a vaccine, I was saying herd immunity would take 70 to 75%,” Fauci said. “Then, when newer surveys said 60% or more would take it, I thought, ʻI can nudge this up a bit,’ so I went to 80, 85.”
When confronted about this deception, Fauci denied that he had been dishonest with the American public.
“The reason I first started saying 70, 75, I brought it up to 85 — that’s not a big leap to go from 75 to 85 — it was really based on calculations and pure extrapolations from measles,” Fauci told CNN’s Dana Bash. “Measles is about 98 percent effective vaccine. The COVID-19 vaccine is about 94, 95%.”
“So, I made a calculation that COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, is not as nearly as transmissible as measles,” he continued. “Measles is the most transmissible infection you can imagine. So, I would imagine that you would need something a little bit less than the 90 percent. That’s where I got to the 85.”
However, when pressed, Fauci admitted that polling about the coronavirus vaccine did influence what he told the public.
“I want to encourage the people of the United States and globally to get vaccinated, because, as many as we possibly get vaccinated, we will get closer to herd immunity. So, the bottom line is, it’s a guesstimate,” Fauci said.
This isn’t the first time Fauci has moved the goalposts.
Toward the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, Fauci denied the need to wear face coverings and said there “was no need” to wear one unless an individual was sick. A few months later, however, he began endorsing widespread mask-wearing and recently advocated for a national mask mandate.