President Donald Trump on Tuesday spun the high number of Americans who have been infected with COVID-19 as “terrific,” claiming falsely that all those cases serve as a “powerful vaccine.”

“I think that the vaccine was our goal, that was number one, because that was the way, that was the way it ends,” Trump said at a White House coronavirus vaccine summit.

“Plus, you do have an immunity, you develop immunity over a period of time, and I hear we’re close to 15%, I’m hearing that, and that is terrific. That’s a very powerful vaccine in itself and just tremendous progress has been made,” he added.

It seems the president was suggesting that the country is approaching herd immunity via the rising number of infections.

Public health experts predict that herd immunity from COVID-19 will be achieved when roughly 60% to 70% of the population has been vaccinated.

It’s not clear where Trump’s “15%” figure came from. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded a positivity rate of 11.7% on Nov. 28. However, that number refers to the percentage of coronavirus tests with positive results over the course of a week, not the total number of people who have been infected in the United States since the pandemic began.

The U.S. just passed 15 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. That amounts to roughly 4.5% of the 331 million population having been infected.

The White House did not immediately return HuffPost’s request for clarification on the 15% figure.

Experts warn that pursuing herd immunity via infection, rather than a vaccine, would cost several million lives. More than 285,000 people in the U.S. have already died from COVID-19. There is also evidence to suggest that people who have been sick with the coronavirus can be reinfected.

Nonetheless, Trump has embraced the idea of herd immunity via infection for months.

After his remark Tuesday, he went on to boast that the U.S. only has so many cases because there is so much testing ― another claim he has made for months.

His comments came in response to a reporter who asked for the president’s message to the American people about what they should do over Christmas and how they should face the pandemic’s hardships given the surge in cases around the country.


A HuffPost Guide To Coronavirus

As COVID-19 cases rise, it’s more important than ever to remain connected and informed. Join the HuffPost community today. (It’s free!)