Internal emails from a Donald Trump appointee reveal that at one point there was a serious push for herd immunity in conversations with health officials. Politico reports that the emails were from July, and show then-science adviser Paul Alexander urging to adopt the controversial herd immunity strategy in combating COVID-19.
"There is no other way, we need to establish herd, and it only comes about allowing the non-high risk groups expose themselves to the virus. PERIOD," wrote Alexander in the emails, which were obtained by a House watchdog. The emails were addressed to his boss Michael Caputo, the Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, as well as six other officials.
"Infants, kids, teens, young people, young adults, middle aged with no conditions etc. have zero to little risk….so we use them to develop herd…we want them infected," Alexander continued. "[I]t may be that it will be best if we open up and flood the zone and let the kids and young folk get infected."
He suggested that in adopting the strategy, which immunologist Kristian Andersen has suggested could kill between 1 million and 2 million people in the U.S., would give the public "natural immunity."
Alexander wrote in the emails, specifically in one addressed to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield, that colleges should remain open to held spread the infection further. "We essentially took off the battlefield the most potent weapon we had...younger healthy people, children, teens, young people who we needed to fastly infect themselves, spread it around, develop immunity, and help stop the spread," he said.
Trump officials have denied that herd immunity was ever in consideration, although it's believed Alexander had the backing of the White House when making these recommendations in July. More internal emails show that Alexander pushed to make official statements from government scientists appear more favorable to Trump. In one such instance, he agreed that COVID-19 was disproportionately impacting minority communities, but sharing a statement from the CDC revealing this could result in "the media and Democrat antagonists" using the statement "against the president."
He made comments remarkably similiar to what Trump has alleged, too, stating in a July email that infections were going up because there was more testing taking place. The Department of Health and Human Services has denied that Alexander's emails shaped the department's strategies. His employment there ended Sept. 16.
Recently, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country's top expert on infectious diseases, suggested in an interview with NPR that actual widespread immunity could happen by March or April next year. "I would say 50 percent would have to get vaccinated before you start to see an impact," he said on the continous rise in infections. "But I would say 75 to 85 percent would have to get vaccinated if you want to have that blanket of herd immunity."