“In 2020, the focus was mostly about using the kids as guinea pigs (ie subjecting them to a new virus) to achieve herd immunity.”

Dr. Jerome Adams, the Surgeon General in the Trump administration, recently caused a stir on social media by posting the following:

The pandemic school closure debate is now often framed as being solely about the kids. However, it’s important to acknowledge that in 2020, the focus was mostly about using the kids as guinea pigs (ie subjecting them to a new virus) to achieve herd immunity + faster reopening.

Dr. Adams also shared this page from his new book, Crisis and Chaos: Lessons from the Front Lines of the War Against COVID-19, regarding Dr. Scott Atlas, who served as a coronavirus advisor to President Trump in 2020:


Dr. Adams was not the only person who recalled Dr. Atlas’ proposal to use “kids as vectors to ensure viral spread in an attempt to reach herd immunity as quickly as possible so as to reopen the economy.”  According to a report from House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis titled The Atlas Dogma:

Dr. Atlas also used his newfound position of power to recruit herd immunity proponents to come to Washington, D.C., to meet with multiple senior Administration officials and, according to (CDC) Director Redfield, “convince people that herd immunity was going to save us, and this thing was going to go bye-bye.”

Former White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx similarly testified:

Dr. Atlas’ view was that anybody who was not going to have severe disease should be allowed to become infected.  I do believe that he thought that there was long-term protection from reinfection, but we didn’t know that. And so he really was trying to, and it was a team, it wasn’t just Dr. Atlas, there was a team of physicians and PhDs who strongly believed that the virus was innocent to the majority of the American people and somehow you could magically separate the 50 or 60 million vulnerable Americans from that infection at a high level.

“This quote from the former SG is simply untrue.”

Although he was merely relaying what he and many others heard directly from Dr. Atlas, furious commentators told Dr. Adams he was making this all up. They told Dr. Adams it was preposterous to claim that anyone actually wanted children to get infected to achieve herd immunity. Instead, they claimed Dr. Atlas was a benevolent soul, who merely felt the harms of remote learning outweighed the benefits of preventing COVID in children. One typically irate commentator said:

I’m sorry, Jerome, but this is just obscene framing. We have receipts. There were many people in this fight. The focus on reopening schools was NOT about using kids as guinea pigs. It was about looking at data from other countries and taking children’s needs into consideration.

Several doctors also berated Dr. Adams, saying that he was lying. Dr. Vinay Prasad said:

Totally dishonest. I watched most of @ScottAtlas_IT press conferences and, agree or disagree, he repeatedly said kids were at such low risk, they might as well go to school, and derive the massive benefit of education.

Dr. Jay Bhattacharya similarly said:

This quote from the former SG is simply untrue. I spoke regularly with Scott Atlas in spring & summer 2020. His motivation derived from his understanding of the importance of schools for the well being of children and from the Swedish success in spring 2020 with open schools.

I’ll go one step further. It was evident to me at the time and now that the people who pushed lockdowns and school closures had no concern whatsoever about the well being of children, thinking of them primarily as vectors of disease to be suppressed rather than precious young people to be nurtured and cared for.

“When younger, healthier people get infected, that’s a good thing because that’s exactly the way that population immunity develops.”

So who is right here? Was Dr. Atlas a leader of a failed movement to purposely infect unvaccinated children to hasten the arrival of herd immunity, or was he a tireless warrior for education, who merely wanted precious young people to be nurtured and cared for? Fortunately, the words of Dr. Atlas provide an answer. Indeed, “we have receipts”.

In an article from April 2020 titled  The Data Is In — Stop The Panic And End The Total Isolation, Dr. Atlas wrote:

Fact 3: Vital population immunity is prevented by total isolation policies, prolonging the problem.

We know from decades of medical science that infection itself allows people to generate an immune response — antibodies — so that the infection is controlled throughout the population by “herd immunity.” Indeed, that is the main purpose of widespread immunization in other viral diseases — to assist with population immunity. In this virus, we know that medical care is not even necessary for the vast majority of people who are infected. It is so mild that half of infected people are asymptomatic, shown in early data from the Diamond Princess ship, and then in Iceland and Italy. That has been falsely portrayed as a problem requiring mass isolation. In fact, infected people without severe illness are the immediately available vehicle for establishing widespread immunity. By transmitting the virus to others in the low-risk group who then generate antibodies, they block the network of pathways toward the most vulnerable people, ultimately ending the threat. Extending whole-population isolation would directly prevent that widespread immunity from developing.

In another article from April 2020, titled Reentry After The Panic: Paying the Health Price of Extreme Isolation, Dr. Atlas said “We now need to reenter normal life” and lamented not “having a population protected by a naturally developed immunity.”  He wrote:

But a bigger price might now be paid from choosing extreme isolation. In the absence of immunization, society needs circulation of the virus, assuming high-risk people can be isolated. Infection itself allows people to generate an immune response — natural antibodies. Given the estimated contagiousness of COVID-19, about 60 percent of people in the community need to have antibodies to stop the spread by “herd immunity.” Remember, medical care is not necessary for the vast majority of people who are infected. We also infer from testing in Iceland and Vo, Italy, that half of infected people are asymptomatic. That has been misleadingly portrayed as a problem requiring mass isolation; those infected people are an important vehicle for establishing immunity by transmitting the virus to the low-risk group. Preliminary testing in Germany shows that perhaps 15 percent of people are immune; no doubt this varies greatly by region. It is very possible that whole-population isolation prevented natural herd immunity from developing.

Neither of these articles mentioned “schools”, “classroom”, or “education.”

During an interview with Tucker Carlson from June 2020, Dr. Atlas said:

We expected more cases with more social mingling… But the fact is the overwhelming majority of these cases are in younger healthier people. These people do not have a significant problem. They do not have the serious complications. They do not die. And so it’s fantastic news that we have a lot of cases, but we don’t see deaths going up, and what that means is A: we’re are doing a better job of protecting the vulnerable, B: We’re in good shape here.

We like the fact that there’s a lot of cases in low- risk populations, because that’s exactly how we’re going to get herd immunity, population immunity, when low-risk people, with no significant problem handling this virus, which is basically 99% of people get this, they become immunity and they block the pathway of connectivity of contagiousness for older sicker people…Children have virtually zero risk of getting a serious complication, virtually a zero risk of dying…Children only rarely if ever transmit the disease.

During another Fox News interview from July 2020, Dr. Atlas said:

When younger, healthier people get the disease, they don’t have a problem with the disease. I’m not sure why that’s so difficult for everyone to acknowledge. These people getting the infection is not really a problem, and in fact, as we said months ago, when you isolate everyone, including all the healthy people, you’re prolonging the problem because you’re preventing population immunity. Low-risk groups getting the infection is not a problem.

During another interview from July 2020, Dr. Atlas said:

It doesn’t matter if younger, healthier people get infected. I don’t know how often that has to be said. They have nearly zero risk of a problem from this. When younger, healthier people get infected, that’s a good thing because that’s exactly the way that population immunity develops.

A Twitter account compiled several videos of Dr. Atlas making (and later denying) many similar statements. In one clip, Dr. Atlas said:

There’s a positive to having low-risk groups get infection.  What’s the positive?  This is how you develop population based immunity.  When I said this months ago, as did others, if we isolate every human being from social interaction, we are prolonging the problem, we are preventing population immunity from developing.  But we isolated, and this is what we called for, isolating and protecting the high-risk groups, once we do that successfully, we don’t care if younger, healthier people get the infection.

It’s true that Dr. Atlas also wrote articles discussing the potential harms of remote learning in 2020, though he used this as an opportunity to minimize pediatric COVID.  For example, he wrote that “only ten” children died of COVID in NYC during the first wave, though this was a large number of children to die in a short time in one city with the strictest mitigation measures in place.

However, Dr. Atlas’ belief that it was “positive”, “a good thing”, and “fantastic news” when young people contracted COVID explains why he didn’t just want children in school, he wanted them there unvaccinated, unmasked, and untested. Indeed, Dr. Atlas, who supposedly was only concerned about students losing “the massive benefit of education”, had nothing to say, as far as I know, when overwhelming COVID outbreaks shuttered schools or led to record-high absentee rates.

Dr. Atlas viewed schools as an opportunity to build “natural herd immunity” in children. He wanted them infected.

“Immunity is built through illness.”

Of course, Drs. Prasad and Bhattacharya should not be surprised by these quotes from Dr. Atlas. They too were leaders of the movement to infect unvaccinated children with SARS-CoV-2 to theoretically protect more vulnerable adults. It’s worth remembering their words as well.

In an article titled, Should We Let Children Catch Omicron, Dr. Prasad said:

When it comes to infectious disease, normality means a world where they are routinely exposed to, and overcome, viral illness. For children, getting sick and recovering is part of a natural and healthy life… Shielding kids from exposure only increases their future risk. This is partly why the UK does not vaccinate against chickenpox. Serious complications from the disease are rare among children, and the circulating virus allows adults to be naturally boosted against reactivation-driven shingles. By rebuilding population immunity among the least at-risk, moreover, we help buffer risk for those most vulnerable.

He favorably quoted computational biologist Dr. Francois Balloux who said:

I’m not sure how to convey this message in a half-acceptable way. But, if the objective were to send SARCoV2 into endemicity, then healthy kids have to be exposed to the virus, ideally earlier than later. This is not ‘eugenism’; it is bog-standard infection disease epidemiology.

Dr. Prasad urged his readers to accept pediatric COVID fatalities “as a matter of course”, writing:

While the death of any child is a tragedy, Covid-19 is less deadly to children than many other risks we accept as a matter of course.

“Immunity is built through illness,” Dr. Prasad concluded, though of course immunity can also be built through vaccines.

Dr. Bhattacharya, meanwhile, co-authored the influential Great Barrington Declaration (GBD), whose entire premise was that the mass infection of unvaccinated youth would lead to herd immunity. It said:

The most compassionate approach that balances the risks and benefits of reaching herd immunity, is to allow those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk.

In the Frequently Asked Questions section, the GBD claimed that herd immunity would arrive in 3 to 6 months if only 250 million unvaccinated, “not vulnerable” Americans were willing to simultaneously “build up immunity to the virus through natural infection”. It said:

For how long must high-risk individuals be careful and/or self-isolate?

When herd immunity is reached, they can live normally again with minimal risks. How long that takes depends on the strategy used. If age-wide lockdown measures are used to try and suppress the disease, it could take a year or two or three, making it very difficult for older people to protect themselves for that long. If focused protection is used, it will likely only take 3 to 6 months.

Like Dr. Atlas, Drs. Prasad and Bhattacharya have spread blatant misinformation, always minimizing COVID’s risk to children. They too have been tireless crusaders against vaccines, masks, COVID tests, and anything else that might limit COVID infections in children. They too were silent when COVID outbreaks closed schools.

They also wanted them infected.

“Many were fine with exposing kids (and school workers) to a deadly virus, with no vaccine or treatment, in the name of herd immunity. That’s a fact.”

The broader lesson here is that it’s crucial to remember the words doctors said, the policies they pushed, and the real-world consequences that resulted. This is especially the case now that they seek to rewrite history, denying they were ever part of a disastrous movement to infect tens of millions of unvaccinated children to achieve the mythical grail of herd immunity.

Dr. Adams ended his Twitter thread by saying:

My intent isn’t to attack Atlas or anyone else. It’s to remind us the context at the time for these policy debates, and the tradeoffs people don’t acknowledge or forget about in hindsight. Many were fine with exposing kids (and school workers) to a deadly virus, with no vaccine or treatment, in the name of herd immunity. That’s a fact.

He’s right. They wanted them infected. That’s a fact.



  • Dr. Jonathan Howard is a neurologist and psychiatrist who has been interested in vaccines since long before COVID-19. He is the author of "We Want Them Infected: How the failed quest for herd immunity led doctors to embrace the anti-vaccine movement and blinded Americans to the threat of COVID."

Posted by Jonathan Howard

Dr. Jonathan Howard is a neurologist and psychiatrist who has been interested in vaccines since long before COVID-19. He is the author of "We Want Them Infected: How the failed quest for herd immunity led doctors to embrace the anti-vaccine movement and blinded Americans to the threat of COVID."