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Trump embraces herd immunity in the wake of his COVID-19 recovery

In the days following President Trump’s apparent recovery from COVID-19, he and his administration have returned to the idea that America should fight the pandemic by attempting to achieve so-called herd immunity, rather than trying to stop it. spread through the use of masks and reducing in-person contacts.

On Sunday, a day after his doctors cleared his campaign return, Trump posted a tweet that was quickly flagged on Twitter as a spread of disinformation.

“A total and complete confirmation yesterday from the doctors of the White House. This means I can̵

7;t get it (immune) and can’t give it. Very nice to know !!! ” wrote the president.

In fact, some people – very few – who have recovered from COVID-19 have been infected a second time, apparently with a mutated strain of the virus. The idea behind herd immunity is that if a high enough percentage of a population, 60 to 70%, is exposed to a virus and produces antibodies for it, the chain of infection will be broken.

Vaccination is one way communities can help achieve herd immunity – which is why doctors urge young and old patients to get flu vaccinated every year – because it introduces a small amount of the virus into the body. human, triggering the production of antibodies.

But for now, at least, a COVID-19 vaccine remains elusive and the United States is nowhere near herd immunity. The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 is just under 8 million; the actual number is thought to be considerably higher, but epidemiologists estimate that 85-90 percent of Americans are still susceptible to contracting the disease. There have been more than 216,000 confirmed deaths from the disease in the United States, implying a mortality rate that could reach 2.74%. But even a much lower rate, applied to the segment of the population still susceptible to contracting COVID-19, could result in a staggering number of victims, which far exceeds the current deaths.

“Never in the history of public health has herd immunity been used as a strategy to respond to an epidemic, let alone a pandemic,” World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a briefing by Monday. “It is scientifically and ethically problematic.”

U.S President Donald Trump gives the thumbs up when he arrives to hold a Make America Great Again rally while campaigning at John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, Oct.13, 2020 (photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP via Getty Images)
President Trump at an election rally in Johnstown, Pennsylvania on Tuesday. (Saul Loeb / AFP via Getty Images)

On the same day Tedros released his latest comments on herd immunity, Trump misinterpreted a statement from another WHO official to bolster his position that blockades put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus should be revoked.

Indeed, WHO has not changed its stance and has always said that blocking restrictions, while sometimes necessary, should be used as a measure of last resort.

Grasping this apparent contradiction, the Trump administration has convened a call with reporters to promote the idea that the United States should look to herd immunity to help end the pandemic, the New York Times reported Wednesday. During that call, two officials requesting anonymity cited a petition called the Great Barrington Declaration, calling for states to lift coronavirus restrictions for most American citizens.

“The most compassionate approach that balances the risks and benefits of achieving herd immunity is to allow those at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build immunity to the virus through infection. natural, better protecting those at highest risk. We call this targeted protection, “the document states.

It is unclear how far Trump and his administration will go to push states to adopt an immunity approach to the virus, but as his mass demonstrations have resumed despite some state guidelines, the number of U.S. cases of COVID-19 has increased. the increase. In the past two weeks, new cases have increased by 21 percent, according to the New York Times, a statistic that seems lost for the president.

“Now they say I’m immune. I feel so powerful I’m going to get into that audience,” Trump said at a Monday rally in Florida, adding, “I’m going to kiss everyone in that audience.”

Yet Trump himself seemed to have been convinced that doing nothing to stem the spread of the coronavirus was immoral. One of his favorite anecdotes in recent months has been to take credit for reducing COVID-19 deaths which would have resulted in simply letting the virus roam freely.

“Think of the number: potentially 2.2 million people if we didn’t do anything, if we didn’t distance ourselves, if we didn’t do all the things we’re doing,” Trump said in April.

At the same time, he seemed lured by the example set by Sweden, which refused to take strong measures to slow the spread of the virus.

“You will develop the herd, like a herd mentality,” Trump said at a Pennsylvania town hall days before he too contracted COVID-19. “It will – it will be a developed pack, and this will happen.”

Herd immunity (not herd mentality) is a tried and true epidemiological concept. A study published Tuesday in the journal Immunity concluded that COVID-19 antibodies could protect a person from reinfection by the same strain of the disease for 5-7 months. But to gain herd immunity to COVID-19, the United States must either produce a vaccine or be content with letting millions more Americans get the disease and hundreds of thousands more die from it.


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