Coronavirus: 90% of Americans have not been exposed to Covid-19, CDC director warns

CDC Director Robert Redfield tells Capitol Hill ‘more than 90% of the population’ remains susceptible to the novel coronavirus

Chris Riotta
New York
Wednesday 23 September 2020 21:46 BST
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More than 90 percent of Americans remain susceptible to contracting Covid-19, according to the director of the CDC, making the idea of achieving “herd immunity” in the US all but impossible without massive death.

Robert Redfield’s comments appeared to pour cold water on President Donald Trump’s hopes the country could combat the virus with herd immunity, which experts have said would require anywhere from 60 to 80 of the entire population to contain antibodies for the novel coronavirus.

The CDC director shared preliminary results from an ongoing study that sought to determine the true spread of Covid-19 across the US, which Mr Redfield has previously suggested was likely much higher than the two percent figure that has been reported by Johns Hopkins University and the US Census Bureau.

“The preliminary results in the first round show that a majority of our nation, more than 90% of the population, remains susceptible,” he told the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. “A majority of Americans are still susceptible.”

Mr Redfield spoke on Wednesday after it was reported that more than 6.8 million people in the US have been infected with the novel virus, and over 200,000 Americans have died due to complications resulting from Covid-19. 

The CDC director also said he expects there to be about 700 million doses of vaccines available by late March or April, enough for 350 million people.

“I think that's going to take us April, May, June, you know, possibly July," Mr Redfield said, "to get the entire American public completely vaccinated.”

Mr Redfield, US Food and Drug Administration head Stephen Hahn, US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases head Anthony Fauci and Health and Human Services official Brett Giroir were testifying on the COVID-19 pandemic when the comments were made on Wednesday.

There is no vaccine for COVID-19 yet, but there are several in late stage trials, including from Pfizer Inc, Moderna Inc and Johnson & Johnson. Companies have begun manufacturing the vaccine in anticipation of a fast regulatory authorization once they are shown to work.

Dr. Fauci said he expects 50 million doses to be available in November and 100 million by the end of December. He expects a total of 700 million doses by April.

Health officials and Mr Trump have presented different views about when the vaccines will be ready for most Americans. The process for deciding how to distribute vaccines falls largely to the CDC.

Mr Redfield said Operation Warp Speed, the government group with officials from the departments of Health and Human Services and Defense, will ultimately decide how to allocate the vaccines.

Reuters contributed to this report

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