WASHINGTON (WPTA21 and ABC News) - Exactly what will it take for the United States to reach "herd immunity" for COVID-19?
That was the focus of questioning by Indiana Sen. Mike Braun when Dr. Anthony Fauci took the microphone on Capitol Hill Tuesday.
Braun was looking for a figure the country could aim for as it continues vaccination efforts.
But the nation's top adviser on the novel coronavirus said, there simply isn't a number to give.
"I think that’s going to be a difficult number to set because herd immunity is a concept," he answered. "It means to get enough people vaccinated so you have a core of protected people that’s a blanket of protection over even the vulnerable who cannot (be vaccinated).
"The threshold of herd immunity is a number we don’t know yet for this particular virus.”
Braun acknowledged the difficulty and said that uncertainty would be a challenge for those trying to manage COVID-19 in the months ahead.
Fauci did, in his testimony, suggest that the infection rate will be so low in the near future that "we will begin to return to normality."
Fellow Republican Sen. Rand Paul drilled Fauci over his handling of the pandemic -- as he has in hearings since the pandemic began -- in a heated line of questioning on the origin of the virus.
Paul pushed the unverified claim that the virus originated in China's Wuhan Virology Institute. He demanded that Fauci admit that the National Institutes of Health specifically funded "gain-of-function research" at the Wuhan Institute of Virology -- a type of controversial research that involves boosting a virus so that vaccines or cures can be developed proactively, but which Paul said was "fooling with Mother Nature."
Fauci shot down the theory as unequivocally false.
"Senator Paul, with all due respect, you are entire -- entirely and completely incorrect. The NIH has not ever and does not now fund gain-of-function research in the Wuhan Institute of Virology," Fauci said.
He told Paul that while the NIH has funded research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in the past, it was not for gain-of-function research, "despite the fact that people tweet that."