Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, testifies during a hearing of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) on Capitol Hill in Washington, USA.
Kevin Dietsch | Reuters
If the US allowed the coronavirus to spread uncontrollably to achieve what is known as herd immunity, the "death toll would be enormous," warned White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, on Thursday.
"If everyone becomes infected, despite the relatively high percentage of people without symptoms … many people will die," Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, told actor Matthew McConaughey during a lifetime discussion on Instagram.
According to epidemiologists, herd immunity is necessary to contain a virus and is achieved when large parts of the population are either vaccinated or survive an infection and develop antibodies to new infections. The virus then does not have enough hosts to infect it.
Most scientists believe that 60% to 80% of the population must be vaccinated or have natural antibodies in order to achieve herd immunity, said Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization's health emergencies program, last month.
However, the coronavirus has infected less than 2% of the US population and has already killed at least 166,970 people, according to Johns Hopkins University. If the virus spread uncontrollably to achieve herd immunity, the death toll would rise to levels that are "totally unacceptable," Fauci said. Americans tend to have more underlying conditions like diabetes and obesity, which lead to higher death rates from the coronavirus.
"If you look at the United States of America with our obesity epidemic, the number of people with high blood pressure, the number of people with diabetes, if everyone were to be infected, the death toll would be huge and totally unacceptable," Fauci said.
"And that's why we object to saying 'Let it fly! Let everyone infect and we'll be fine.' That's a bad idea," he added.
WHO officials have also advised officials against achieving herd immunity by allowing Covid-19 to spread rapidly in their communities. Organization officials said it would overwhelm hospitals and kill many people.
"We're nowhere near (herd immunity), which means this virus has a long way to go to burn in our communities before we ever get there," Ryan said.
Infectious disease experts, including Fauci, claim the coronavirus is unlikely to ever be eradicated, although nations can bring levels of infection down to "low levels".
"I think with a combination of good public health action, some level of global herd immunity, and a good vaccine that I hope and am cautiously optimistic we will get, I think when we put all three together, we will get it. " Control over whether it's this year or next. I'm not sure, "Fauci told the TB Alliance on July 22nd.
– CNBC's Berkeley Lovelace Jr. contributed to this report.