The chief of the World Health Organization has labeled the COVID-19 "natural herd immunity" strategy "morally unconscionable and unfeasible".
The WHO virtual press conference on Friday invited three COVID-19 patients to share their painful experience fighting the novel coronavirus.
They included Paul Garner, a professor from the United Kingdom's Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine who has been recovering from COVID-19 since March; Martha Sibanda, a nurse from Johannesburg, South Africa; and Lyth Hismeh, a 26-year-old member of a patient advocacy group called Long COVID SOS in the UK.
After listening to the three sharing their experiences and symptoms, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said their comments reinforced "what a dangerous virus COVID-19 is".
"It also reinforces to me just how morally unconscionable and unfeasible the so-called 'natural herd immunity' strategy is," he said.
Tedros said such a strategy would lead to millions of unnecessary deaths, and that many others would face a long road to full recovery.
The WHO chief said that herd immunity is only possible with safe and effective vaccines that are distributed equitably around the world.
"And until we have a vaccine, governments and people must do all that they can to suppress transmission, which is the best way to prevent these post-COVID long-term consequences," Tedros said.
On Wednesday, the Daily Beast reported that US President Donald Trump had been overtly integrating the concept of a "herd immunity" strategy into his public comments for many months.
Trump has repeatedly said the US is "rounding the corner" on the virus, despite the fact that the number of total cases in the US has exceeded 9 million, with daily infections hitting 90,000 according to an NBC News tally on Friday.
Total deaths in the US have reached 230,000, according to Johns Hopkins University.
On Friday, the WHO Emergency Committee on COVID-19, which just concluded a two-day meeting, advised that the pandemic still constituted a public health emergency of international concern, and urged a focus on response efforts based on lessons learned and strong science.
The committee emphasized the importance of evidence-informed, risk-based and coherent measures in relation to international traffic, surveillance and contract tracing efforts, maintaining essential health services including mental health services, and preparing plans for future COVID-19 vaccines.
The committee also urged countries to avoid politicization of the pandemic response, seen as a major detriment to global efforts.
It was the fifth meeting for the committee since the COVID-19 outbreak started. Globally reported COVID-19 cases have reached 44 million, with 1.1 million people having lost their lives to the pandemic, according to the WHO.