Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield speaks at a hearing on the COVID-19 response held by the Chamber’s Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on June 4, 2020.
Al Drago | Pool via Reuters
Most of the United States remains susceptible to a coronavirus infection, Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told lawmakers.
He said the CDC is in the process of a “very large” study that seeks to more accurately determine the spread of the virus across the country.
The rate of infection is important because epidemiologists believe it generally carries some immunity against the virus for at least a few months.
“Preliminary results from the first round show that the majority of our nation, over 90% of the population, remain susceptible,” he said in a Senate hearing hosted by the Health, Education, Work and Pensions Committee. . “Most Americans are still sensitive.”
The coronavirus has infected more than 6.8 million people in the United States, or about 4.8 percent of the U.S. population, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and the United States Census Bureau. However, the true spread of the virus is likely much higher, Redfield previously said, as many mild, asymptomatic cases go undiagnosed.
The comments raise even more doubts about the feasibility of achieving so-called herd immunity, which is achieved when a sufficient portion of the population has developed immunity against the virus so that it cannot spread efficiently. Most scientists say 60% to 80% of the population must be vaccinated or develop antibodies through natural infection to gain herd immunity, top officials from the World Health Organization previously said.
Critics of company closures and public health restrictions intended to curb the spread of the virus have pointed to herd immunity without a vaccine as a potential solution to the pandemic. However, WHO officials and many epidemiologists have criticized the strategy because it would likely lead to widespread disease and death.
Last month, White House coronavirus consultant Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said allowing the virus to spread out of control to gain herd immunity would bring the death toll. to a “totally unacceptable” level.
“If you look at the United States of America with our obesity epidemic so to speak, with the number of people with hypertension, with the number of people with diabetes, if everyone were infected, the death toll would be huge and totally unacceptable. “Fauci said on August 31st.
Redfield’s comments on Wednesday come a day after the U.S. death toll from Covid-19 surpassed 200,000, according to Hopkins data.
Further complicating the herd immunity approach is the behavior of the antibodies against the coronavirus. The body typically develops antibodies to help the immune system fight infections. Health officials said there is still not enough data to indicate that coronavirus antibodies guarantee immunity against the virus or to determine how long protection might last.
—CNBC’s Berkeley Lovelace Jr. is Noah Higgins-Dunn contributed to this report.