MONTGOMERY, Ala. - An Alabama state senate leader said he would like “to see more people” contract COVID-19 in order to reach “an immunity” in the state, despite science that may suggest otherwise.
Republican Sen. Del Marsh, president pro tempore of the Alabama State Senate, was asked Thursday by a reporter whether he was concerned about the sudden rise of coronavirus cases in the state.
Alabama set a new daily record in the state with 2,164 new cases on Thursday, according to Alabama Department of Public Health.
“I’m not as concerned as much as the number of cases. In fact, quite honestly, I want to see more people, because we start reaching an immunity as more people have it and get through it,” Marsh said. "I don't want any deaths, as few as possible in the state."
Marsh appeared to be referring to herd immunity, which occurs when enough people become immune to a disease by either previous infection or a vaccine.
But scientists studying the novel coronavirus say that it isn’t yet clear if infection makes a person immune to future infection. More research is needed to determine whether COVID-19 antibodies are protective against reinfection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A recent study in Spain tested more than 61,000 COVID-19 patients and found that only 5% maintained antibodies developed from the virus, suggesting it to be “clearly insufficient to provide herd immunity.”
"In light of these findings, any proposed approach to achieve herd immunity through natural infection is not only highly unethical, but also unachievable," the study authors wrote, which was conducted by several leading epidemiologists and Spanish health authorities.
Even if the virus creates long-lasting immunity for people, a large number of individuals would need to become infected to reach the threshold of herd immunity.
In the U.S., experts estimate about 70% of the population, or more than 200 million people, who would have to recover from COVID-19, according to the Mayo Clinic. And if that many people were to become sick, it would also put a strain on the health care system.
Marsh, who has represented the 12th District since 1998, also told reporters that he is more concerned about hospitals being overwhelmed.
“I would be more concerned if we have overcapacity at the hospitals, and I don’t see that,” Marsh said.
The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Alabama has climbed each day this week, according to WSFA-TV. Data from the state health department showed 1,183 hospitalizations as of Friday.
Marsh did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
This story was reported from Cincinnati.