Johns Hopkins doctor claims the US will reach herd immunity by April

Johns Hopkins professor Dr Marty Makary has made a bold claim: ‘We’ll have herd immunity by April,’ he wrote in a Wall Street Journal editorial.  

Dr Makary estimates that the U.S. will have herd immunity by then, driven by the high, but underestimated, number of people who have been infected already and vaccination. 

‘Some medical experts privately agreed with my prediction that there may be very little Covid-19 by April but suggested that I not to talk publicly about herd immunity because people might become complacent and fail to take precautions or might decline the vaccine,’ said Dr Makary in his editorial, published Friday. 

Johns Hopkins professor Dr Marty Makary predicted in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that the US will reach herd immunity by April

Johns Hopkins professor Dr Marty Makary predicted in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that the US will reach herd immunity by April 

‘But scientists shouldn’t try to manipulate the public by hiding the truth.’  

Dr Makary noted that new daily infections have declined 77 percent in the past six weeks (a analysis of Johns Hopkins data shows a 72 percent decline), equating this decrease to a ‘miracle pill.’ 

Vanderbilt University infectious diseases professor Dr William Shaffner said that while herd immunity likely is building in the US, contributing to the lower case numbers, it’s too soon to predict that the nation will reach that point in the next two months. 

‘His thesis – I would raise it as a question, he raises it as a conclusion,’ said Dr Shaffner. 

‘Not only does he draw a conclusion…he makes a prediction. 

‘I sure hope he’s correct, but I can’t say that. I’d I’d prefer to under-promise and over- deliver; namely keep talking about the end of summer or early fall’ bringing a return to normalcy in the US.  

That’s been the consistent prediction of public health officials like Dr Anthony Fauci since vaccines were authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in December.  

By then, Dr Fauci and others say that share of Americans who have been vaccinated will approach 70 percent. 

But Dr Makary argues that this discounts the number of Americans who have already had coronavirus and are now immune or, at least, less at-risk of the infection. 

He also credits this for the current and precipitous decline in new infections. 

‘Why is the number of cases plummeting much faster than experts predicted?’ he asks.

‘In large part because natural immunity from prior infection is far more common than can be measured by testing. 

‘Testing has been capturing only from 10 percent to 25 percent of infections, depending on when during the pandemic someone got the virus. 

‘Applying a time-weighted case capture average of One in 6.5 to the cumulative 28 million confirmed cases would mean about 55 percent of Americans have natural immunity.’ 

He writes that an additional 15 percent of Americans have been vaccinated this week (data tracking from Bloomberg estimates that about 12.8 percent of the population has had one or more doses of vaccine), bringing the percent of people with immunity to nearly 70 percent, the lower end of community protection.  

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It’s hard to say how many people have actually had COVID-19, not only because testing for COVID-19 and antibodies is insufficient, but because no nationally representative studies on how many people have antibodies have been done since November, said Dr Shaffner. 

There have been millions of documented infections since then. Hundreds of thousands more likely went undetected, driving up the number of Americans with immunity. 

‘I think by and large my colleagues and I would say that a substantial driver of reduction in cases is indeed increasing herd immunity due to spread of wild virus and variants,’ said Dr Shaffner. 

But ‘neither [Dr Makary] nor we have direct data the latest data,’ Dr Shaffner said, adding that ‘he’s being a whole lot less cautious than we in public health are.’  

In part, that’s Dr Makary’s critique of other public health officials: they are withholding good news out of fear it will influence public behavior. 

‘There has been too much over-promising out there from the beginning – from national politicians and others – that have confused the public’ and led to a relaxation of measures to keep the spread at bay,’ Dr Shaffner says. 

‘And if it’s earlier people can point fingers at me and say, “Oh Bill, you were wrong about that, and I’ll be so pleased I was wrong.’ 


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