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Ten months into the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, there is mounting frustration that life is not back to “normal.” Many U.S. schools and businesses remain closed, people are hesitant to fly and enjoy vacations, and in many places, restaurants and indoor activities are sharply limited, with severe economic consequences.
With patience wearing thin, it may be tempting to consider policies that give us a return to normalcy, whatever the consequences.
This wishful thinking describes the recent political consideration of herd immunity, a public health term that refers to the threshold at which enough people in a community are immune to an infectious disease so it cannot spread if reintroduced. Historically, herd immunity has been achieved only through the use of vaccines. Trying to achieve herd immunity against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, without a vaccine is an idea that has come into vogue. But it is a misguided and dangerous approach that would not bring life back to normal, and would lead to the deaths of 500,000 or more Americans.
Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar testified last week that “herd immunity is not the strategy of the U.S. government.” Yet President Trump has asserted that …
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