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Global Times

US 'herd immunity' an appeasement strategy for nation's helplessness: Chinese experts

Global Times

By Xu Keyue and Wang Qi Source: Global Times Published: 2020/9/1 21:53:40

Rather than large-scale testing, quarantining infected individuals and their close contacts, and promoting vaccine development - measures taken by China against the COVID-19 - the US is adopting "herd immunity," a strategy that has already been proven "a disaster" in some European countries, which Chinese experts believe is "a huge gamble" to people's health or even lives in the US.

Such "inaction" reveals the helplessness of the US, as the world faces a potential second global outbreak of the rapidly mutating virus without a vaccine, experts noted.

As of 8 pm Tuesday, the number of global COVID-19 cases had surpassed 25.5 million, with more than 6 million reported in the US. The number of deaths in the US is approaching 200,000.

The Washington Post on Tuesday reported that Trump is considering embracing a strategy of "herd immunity" to combat the pandemic, after it was touted by a controversial new advisor. The report said the Trump administration has already begun to implement some policies along those lines.

Yang Zhanqiu, deputy director of the Pathogen Biology Department at Wuhan University, told the Global Times on Tuesday that "herd immunity," in the absence of a coronavirus vaccine, refers to a significant proportion of people in a community, particularly younger individuals, who become immune to infection.

Trump said in an interview with Fox News on Monday that when the number of confirmed cases reaches a certain level, we use the word "herd" and the virus "is going to go away," noting that it doesn't have to have a vaccine.

The latest Ipsos survey of nearly 20,000 adults from 27 countries shows that 67 percent of US residents want to be vaccinated against the COVID-19. In contrast, 97 percent of Chinese want to be vaccinated, ranking the highest for vaccination intent. China stands out for its optimism about vaccine development, with 87 percent of those surveyed expecting a vaccine within the year.

Some analysts believe that there are political considerations in the Trump administration, as they need to comfort voters with new anti-epidemic measures, rather than the same old ways that caused over 6 million infections.

Some experts warned that "herd immunity" is likely an appeasement strategy which "gambles with the lives of a whole nation," given the experience of the UK, which British media called "a disaster."

Wuhan virologist Yang said that even if herd immunity is achieved, it could only protect Americans from one specific virus strain. In other words, they cannot defend against a virus imported from Europe.

But it is understandable for the US to consider the strategy, as the country failed to take effective and strict measures, which has exposed Americans to the virus no matter how hard they protect themselves, Yang said.

Some experts also noted that the move actually revealed the helplessness of the US, amid growing concerns over a second global outbreak, as secondary infection cases have been reported, and more and more viral mutations have been discovered, threatening the efficacy of vaccines.

Some Chinese epidemiologists believe that the main culprit in the US' runaway epidemic is inadequate public protection.

In China, when the epidemic situation was serious, mask-wearing was strictly required and crowds were not allowed. Even tourist spots restricted attendance to 30 to 50 percent of capacity. However, most people in the US failed to do so, as the government should be blamed for poor management.

Also, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's shift in guidance on COVID-19 testing away from asymptomatic individuals this week alarmed many public health experts.

Chinese health experts criticized the US' new guidelines as "inaction," saying the Trump administration seems to have abandoned saving their people.

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom also warned at a virtual press conference on Monday that no country can pretend the pandemic is over.

To prepare for a potential worsening of the pandemic in winter, China on Monday published a plan to further strengthen the country's capacity for COVID-19 nucleic acid testing by deploying testing facilities in different regions, which experts said will prepare the country for any potential recurrence of the COVID-19 ahead of winter.

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