The US may well need to vaccinate children against coronavirus to achieve true herd immunity, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Thursday.
The nation's lead infectious disease expert said people are too focused on the question of herd immunity in the first place.
“I think we should be careful about wedding ourselves to this concept of herd immunity because we really do not know precisely, for this particular virus, what that is,” Fauci told a Senate hearing.
Fauci said he has been estimating that anywhere between 70% and 85% of the population would need to be vaccinated or otherwise immune to the virus to get to the point of herd immunity – when the virus could not spread easily in the population.
“If it is that we would probably have to get more children, and I believe as we get high school students vaccinated in the fall, we'll be able to reach that,” Fauci said during a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
More importantly, he said, was steady vaccination of the US population.
“Every day we get two to three more million and we get closer and closer to where we want to be,” said Fauci, who is director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “We don't really know what that magical point of herd immunity is, but we do know that if we get the overwhelming population vaccinated, we're going to be in good shape. We ultimately would like to get and have to get children into that mix.”
More context: New variants of the virus that are more contagious and that may help the virus evade the effects of the vaccine are an important factor, Fauci pointed out.
He has said that vaccinating as many people as quickly as possible is the best way to prevent the rise of more variants – because viruses evolve when they infect people.
“We are doing a good job now — up to 2 to 3 million vaccinations per day. If more get vaccinated, literally every day that goes by and more and more people get vaccinated, we can stay ahead of what I would consider a race between our ability to vaccinate people and the emergence of variants,” Fauci said.