Rubio criticizes Fauci for raising herd immunity estimate to 90 percent

Greg Nash

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is criticizing the government’s top infectious diseases expert, Anthony Fauci, for raising his estimate for the U.S. to reach herd immunity on the coronavirus to up to 90 percent of the population being vaccinated.

The Florida Republican said Fauci has been “distorting” herd immunity estimates after the expert told The New York Times in an interview published last week that he has incrementally been increasing his projected percentage.

“Dr. Fauci lied about masks in March,” Rubio tweeted Sunday. “Dr. Fauci has been distorting the level of vaccination needed for herd immunity. It isn’t just him.”

“Many in elite bubbles believe the American public doesn’t know ‘what’s good for them’ so they need to be tricked into ‘doing the right thing,’” he added.


Fauci told the newspaper he has boosted his estimates because he thinks Americans are now more able to handle that getting to pre-COVID-19 society may take longer than expected. He also said knowledge about COVID-19 had been a factor.

Fauci, who heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, also said he upped the estimates because fewer Americans are reporting being skeptical of getting the vaccine.

“When polls said only about half of all Americans would take a vaccine, I was saying herd immunity would take 70 to 75 percent,” Fauci told the Times. “Then, when newer surveys said 60 percent or more would take it, I thought, ‘I can nudge this up a bit,’ so I went to 80, 85.”

Herd immunity refers to what percentage of a population needs to get vaccinated in order to make the spread of the virus unlikely. Last month, Fauci had predicted 70 to 75 percent of Americans needed to get the vaccine for herd immunity.

“We need to have some humility here,” Fauci told the Times. “We really don’t know what the real number is. I think the real range is somewhere between 70 to 90 percent. But, I’m not going to say 90 percent.”

In his tweet, Rubio also called attention to Fauci’s comments from March when he said “there’s no reason” for Americans “to be walking around with a mask” if they are not infected or health care providers, with Fauci noting it doesn’t provide “the perfect protection that people think.”

Fauci told CBS News’s “60 Minutes” later in the interview that the majority of the public using masks “could lead to a shortage of masks for the people who really need it.”

Fauci revised his initial advice weeks later and recommended Americans wear face masks in public to prevent the disease from spreading.

Months later, Fauci said he had previously discouraged Americans not to wear masks out of concern that the demand for facial coverings would cause a shortage for health care workers more at risk of contracting the virus.

Fauci has repeatedly come under criticism from some political figures on the right. President Trump also at times has criticized Fauci.

Updated at 1:55 p.m.

Tags Anthony Fauci Coronavirus coronavirus vaccine COVID-19 COVID-19 vaccine Donald Trump herd immunity Marco Rubio Masks Pandemic Vaccine

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