What is Herd Immunity? Can it Help Fight Coronavirus?

Herd immunity might be the answer to the future.   If you have a new disease, such as COVID-19, that we don’t have a vaccine for and no one in the country has ever been infected with, the disease will spread through the population. But if enough people develop an immune memory, then the disease will stop spreading, even if some of the population is not immune. This is herd immunity, and it is a very effective way to protect the whole of a population against infectious disease. Read more

To reach herd immunity, about 60% of the population would need to get ill and become immune, according to Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser. Though it could need as much as 70% or more. Even scientists who understand the strategy are anxious. “I do worry that making plans that assume such a large proportion of the population will become infected (and hopefully recovered and immune) may not be the very best that we can do,” said Martin Hibberd, professor of emerging infectious disease at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

“Another strategy might be to try to contain [it] longer and perhaps long enough for therapy to emerge that might allow some kind of treatment. This seems to be the strategy of countries such as Singapore. While this containment approach is clearly difficult (and maybe impossible for many countries), it does seem a worthy goal; and those countries that can aim to do.” Read more

In theory, herd immunity means not everyone in a community needs to be immune to prevent the spread of disease. If a high enough proportion of individuals in a population are immune, the majority will protect the few susceptible people because the chain is broken. By breaking the chain of a disease’s transmission, herd immunity protects the most vulnerable among us, including newborns and sick people who can’t receive vaccines. But in order for it to work, a certain percentage of people in a community must be vaccinated. read more

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