Can herd immunity really save Us from the coronavirus pandemic?
The United States President, Donald Trump is all set to addressing mass gatherings focused at his own presidency preparations sooner than expected. He plans to do that in June 2020. But doctors and epidemiologists have warned him that mass meetings are a death trap because the vaccine to combat Covid-19 is not going to be out any time sooner than end of June 2020.
The US has reported the maximum deaths at the hands of the Covid-19 virus exposure.
The question remains: Is Trump banking on the herd immunity concept? As a concept, it looks like a desirable way for a couple of nations to open up lockdowns and giving their economies the much needed thrust. According to Los Angeles Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer, “Herd immunity means that many people in the community have already seen the virus, and they have developed what we call antibodies to the virus, so they have some protection, should they see the virus again.”
“Depending (on) how contagious an infection is, usually 70% to 90% of a population needs immunity to achieve herd immunity,” says a research by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Stockholm believes its 30 percent population has achieved herd immunity it hopes the whole population to be covered by end of May 2020.
When a population of more than 50 percent has been exposed to the virus, there is no place of the virus to thrive. So infected bodies start to automatically develop antibodies to fight it. As it travels from one person to another, it becomes ineffective, till the time it has hit the whole population. By then, there might be no need for a vaccine.
Many countries are worried because of their dwindling economies and are desperately looking for ways to open up the pandemic driven lockdowns. Countries with huge population and ethnic spreads like India and US cannot take a chance with herd immunity. Nutrition levels and immunity differs hugely amongst the different ethnic groups in these nations.
Further, it is worth noting that the virus is extremely new and one does not know whether first time exposure develops immunity for life. Unless more than 60percent population in any country does not receive a vaccine, herd immunity may not work at all. Instead, it can prove disastrous.
For Stockholm, the concept of herd immunity could be working well. But this formula cannot work well for all nations.
The whole idea goes against the whole lockdown guideline which many countries are following to contain the spread of the virus. The theory of herd immunity can only work when people can (willfully) maintain the protocol of social distancing of two feet so that the Covid-19 virus does not spread. But because the nature of the human being is like any other animal species; to group, to mingle to meet and then stay together, it is not easy to achieve social distancing as it looks.
In late March, the United Kingdom had retracted from the idea of herd immunity. They had initially planned to close down the country in bits and pieces. The strategy was to build ‘herd immunity’ and allowing ‘enough of us who are going to get mild illness to become immune,’ Sir Patrick Vallance, the U.K. government’s chief scientific adviser shared with the media.
But that would have worked if the virus was understood and not so unknown. The risks of Covid-19 were very high because this enemy was unknown. It therefore became technically impossible to bring about herd immunity by allowing the disease to run rampant through a population. Over the few months since January, evidence has shown that that scenario would have lead to high rates of hospitalization and need for critical care, straining health service capacity past the breaking point.
Scientists worldwide are still trying to understand the virus; but until a vaccine is developed, herd immunity must not be a risk to take. This is more application to nations which might have mixed populations, weak or low medical infrastructures, frail economies or difficult weather conditions .