Former Harvard Medical School scientist and prominent HIV/AIDS researcher William Haseltine has called “herd immunity” for the coronavirus “another word for mass murder.”
Haseltine appeared on CNN on Wednesday to discuss the current coronavirus surge and the White House’s possible adoption of herd immunity as a strategy for the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’m extremely concerned that the president is being advised by people who speak of herd immunity,” said Haseltine, who is currently the president of the nonprofit ACCESS Health International. “Herd immunity is another word for mass murder.”
Trump administration officials have embraced the “Great Barrington Statement,” a plan to let people who are less vulnerable to COVID-19, particularly the young, build up immunity through infection, according to the New York Times. Protecting more vulnerable populations from infection, such as the sick and elderly, would be the main aim of public health measures.
Haseltine said that relying on herd immunity would lead to 2 million to 6 million deaths from COVID-19 not just in 2020, but every year going forward.
“The reason for that is there is no such thing as herd immunity,” he said. “These viruses, coronaviruses, come back year after year and infect the very same people.”
President Trump has mentioned herd immunity at various campaign rallies. In August, he added the conservative critic of pandemic restrictions Dr. Scott Atlas to the White House coronavirus task force, a move that was seen as favoring a herd immunity strategy given Atlas’s previous statements in favor of the strategy. However, in early September, Atlas denied pushing herd immunity with the White House.
Additionally, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar told Congress in early October that “herd immunity is not the strategy of the U.S. government.”