As the nation continues to face the novel coronavirus pandemic, we have lost 250,000 Americans. Among survivors, some live with long-term effects of the virus that we’re only beginning to understand. While no one is immune to the virus, we know that some subsets of the population—including people with compromised immune systems and older folks—are particularly vulnerable. We’ve seen instances of the virus spreading quickly among group settings from schools, to churches, to an enormous motorcycle rally (no, it wasn’t canceled). And yet some people still believe that instead of wearing masks or trying to mitigate the spread of the virus, we should just wait until the nation achieves herd immunity.
In speaking to Face the Nation on CBS, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, chatted with host Margaret Brennan about developments on the COVID-19 vaccine, mask-wearing, Thanksgiving safety, and yes, herd immunity.
First, Fauci stressed that if he’s in a group recommended to take the vaccine, he absolutely plans to do so. He also has no issue in recommending that his family take it. Fauci suggested vaccines will be available “relatively soon,” and encouraged the American public to “hang in there.”
And about herd immunity: Fauci explained the (basic) process of getting an emergency use authorization for a vaccine, saying that once it’s examined and regarded as safe and effective, that should assuage many American’s skepticism and concern.
“When the American public hears that,” he stated on Face the Nation, “you should be assured that that is the case. And if you get an overwhelming majority of the people vaccinated with a highly efficacious vaccine, we can reasonably quickly get to the herd immunity that would be a blanket of protection for the country.” But, as Fauci clarified, if only, say, 40% or 50% of our population receives the vaccine, that’s not enough to achieve herd immunity.
And until the vaccine is available? It’s not just a shrug-your-shoulders-and-give-up scenario. Fauci, as always, recommended that people practice social distancing, wash their hands, and wear a mask. In terms of Thanksgiving, Fauci noted that airports may be particularly unsafe in terms of virus spreading given how crowded they can become with people waiting in long lines. And if masks aren’t worn, that’s only all the more concerning.
And in terms of the holiday itself, he advised people to do the obvious and be cautious when it comes to gathering with people you don’t live with. Feeling lonely over the holidays? That’s understandable. Might we suggest a virtual celebration? Sure, it might not be the tradition you and your family are used to, but the sooner we actually stay home and stay safe to the best of our ability, the sooner we may come out on the other side of this pandemic.