Senior advisers to Donald Trump have met with scientists for advice on pushing a herd immunity strategy that experts say could trigger the deaths of “millions” of Americans.
On Monday, Trump’s health chief Alex Azar and adviser Scott Atlas consulted three scientists who back the idea that the US “can quickly and safely achieve widespread immunity to the coronavirus by allowing it to spread unfettered among healthy people”, Politico reports.
Following the meeting, Health and Human Services Secretary Azar tweeted that they had “heard strong reinforcement of the Trump Administration’s strategy of aggressively protecting the vulnerable while opening schools and the workplace”.
The scientists present – or as Azar described them, the “three distinguished infectious disease experts” – were Harvard University professor of medicine Martin Kulldorff, Stanford physician and epidemiologist Jay Bhattacharya, and Oxford epidemiologist Sunetra Gupta.
All three are advocates of aggressively reopening up the US economy and sidelining mass testing.
But “mainstream medical and public health experts say that seeking widespread, or herd, immunity in the manner the scientists prescribe could result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands or even millions more US residents”, Politico says.
The Covid-19 coronavirus has already claimed the lives of more than 210,000 Americans, according to latest figures.
A study published in The Lancet last month found that less than 10% of the US population had antibodies to the virus.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Dr Robert Redfield subsequently told a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee that “a majority of American” were “still vulnerable to infection, serious illness and death”.
But “the idea of allowing the virus to spread uncontrollably is gaining traction in the White House”, despite experts warning that the move could have “deadly and dangerous consequences”, The Hill says.
The US Department of Health and Human Services, headed by Azar, declined to comment to Politico on whether the Trump administration is shifting to a herd immunity strategy.