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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 January 2021

CORONAVIRUS

Trump health official pushed for herd immunity and mass infections to counter Covid-19

'We want them infected,' said adviser Paul Alexander

Emergency workers assesses a potential Covid-19 patient before transporting him to a hospital on December 15, 2020 in Yonkers, New York, US. Getty Images/AFP
Emergency workers assesses a potential Covid-19 patient before transporting him to a hospital on December 15, 2020 in Yonkers, New York, US. Getty Images/AFP

Documents released by Congress on Wednesday exposed a senior official, appointed by President Donald Trump, who called for “herd immunity” in the US to counter the Covid-19 pandemic, which has claimed more than 304,000 lives in America.

“We want them infected,” Paul Alexander, an adviser to the Health and Human Services assistant secretary for Public Affairs, wrote on July 4 of this year.

Mr Alexander's emails, first released by Politico then made public by the House oversight committee, show a deliberate strategy to push for herd immunity, despite lack of scientific evidence and at great moral cost.

"Infants, kids, teens, young people, young adults, middle aged with no conditions, etc, have zero to little risk … so we use them to develop herd … we want them infected,” he wrote.

“There is no other way, we need to establish herd, and it only comes about [by] allowing the non-high-risk groups [to] expose themselves to the virus. Period.”

That same day, Mr Alexander acknowledged that the idea could backfire if the younger and less vulnerable died from the virus, but then dismissed it.

“If they show serious illness needing ICU and oxygen, and die, then we know the virus has mutated lethally and [is] attacking the usual healthiest in a society, and this is dangerous and I don’t think so … God forbid this ever happens,” he said.

Three weeks later, Mr Alexander, in another email obtained by Politico, raged against university lockdowns as a way to contain the virus.

“We essentially took off the battlefield the most potent weapon we had … younger healthy people, children, teens, young people who we needed to fastly infect themselves, spread it around, develop immunity and help stop the spread.

"It may be that it will be best if we open up and flood the zone and let the kids and young folk get infected" as a way to reach "natural immunity … natural exposure."

The administration has denied allegations that it has pursued herd immunity despite Mr Trump's early call to end lockdowns and focus on the older population.

“We’ve learnt that young people do very well. Very well, incredibly well," he said in May.

"Older people, especially older people that have problems, they don’t do well at all. So, we have to protect those people.

"And we want to get everybody now safely back to work. And we’re going to do that."

Jim Clyburn, a congressman and the chair of the House select committee on the coronavirus crisis, found Mr Alexander’s emails concerning.

“I am deeply troubled that, instead of promoting the best available science needed to keep Americans safe, the Trump administration has played politics with a pandemic that has claimed the lives of more than 300,000 of our fellow Americans,” Mr Clyburn said.

Mr Alexander was hired at the Health and Human Services Department in May and left in September.

Updated: December 17, 2020 02:06 AM

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