WHAT IS HERD IMMUNITY?
What is Herd Immunity? According to the Oxford Dictionary, “resistance to the spread of an infectious disease within in a population that is based on pre-existing immunity of a high proportion of individuals as a result of previous infection or vaccination – the level of vaccination needed to achieve herd immunity by disease ranges from 83% – 94%.”
With the rising number of cases of COVID-19 around the world, health officials continue to work to find the best way to protect the public from the disease. “Herd Immunity,” which some people, including Donald Trump, have said will eventually bring the pandemic to a close, even without a vaccine. Social distancing is an easy concept for most people to understand while herd immunity is more complex.
Since October 4th, a proposal from a group of scientists advocating for reaching herd immunity through the uncontrolled spread of Covid-19, known as the Great Barrington Declaration, has caught the attention of scientists and government officials around the world, including the U.S. President. In the process, the conversations have ignited the debate on reopening society and the cost in human lives.
Herd immunity or community immunity, is when a large part of the population of an area is immune to a specific disease. If enough people are resistant to the cause of a disease, such as a virus or bacteria, it has nowhere to go. While not every single individual may be immune, the group as a whole has protection. This is because there are fewer high-risk people overall. The infection rates drops and the disease peters out! “It would not protect the individual, but it protects the group from a new outbreak.” says Dr. Howard P. Forman, professor of radiology and public health
How Do You Achieve Herd Immunity? There are two ways this can happen.
Dr. Robert Salata, an infectious disease specialist and program director of the Roe Green Center for Global Health & Medicine at University Hospitals in Cleveland, herd immunity is achieved when 45% to 70% of a general population have developed antibodies to a particular virus, which should provide widespread protection against the infection. But in most cases, 80 to 95 percent of the population must be immune to the disease to stop its spread. If the coronavirus is like the flu, we can expect a few months of protection.
When government officials talk about relying on “herd immunity” as a strategy for slowing and possibly stopping the Covid-19 pandemic without a vaccine, it’s a more dangerous approach. Instead of waiting for a safe and effective vaccine, it involves reopening schools and businesses so that the virus has the opportunity to make its way through the population naturally, causing a rising death toll in the process, until there are enough individuals with immunity to protect the community from another outbreak. The Great Barrington Declaration calls for immediately permitting people to resume their pre-pandemic lives if they’re not vulnerable to Covid-19.
More than 6,400 scientists, researchers, and healthcare professionals signed a memorandum denouncing herd immunity through uncontrolled transmission as “a dangerous fallacy unsupported by scientific evidence.” Dr. William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan’s School of Public Health, says the declaration leaves out crucial information including the difference between achieving herd immunity through a vaccine versus uncontrolled transmission and denouncing this approach as “a dangerous fallacy unsupported by scientific evidence.”
Can the herd immunity strategy be safe and effective at this point in the pandemic?
According to Doctor’s Forman, Hanage and thousands of other medical researchers and practitioners, the answer is a resounding no! According to Dr. Forman, herd immunity through infection in the United States would result in more than one million premature deaths. “The consequences of infection are worst for older folks, but are much more dangerous for younger people than any vaccine that would ever be licensed.”
Younger people are dying, too! October 23rd, the Centers for Disease Control reported there have been approximately 300,000 more deaths in the U.S. than would be expected. The group with the largest percentage increase was between ages of 25 and 44. At the final presidential debate, Trump claimed “99.9 percent of young people” recover from Covid-19, which is categorically untrue - no surprise there! In September the journal, JAMA Internal Medicine, indicated 21% of people hospitalized with Covid-19 between the ages of 18 and 34 required intensive care, 10% required mechanical ventilation and nearly 3% died.
The Trump administration embraced the Great Barrington Declaration. In April, Trump criticized Sweden’s handling of Covid-19, incorrectly claiming it involved a herd immunity strategy – another non-surprise! Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIAID, has consistently opposed to the idea of reaching herd immunity through uncontrolled transmission. The views on herd immunity were suggested by Dr. Scott Atlas, the newest Covid-19 adviser, a radiologist with no previous experience in epidemiology, infectious diseases, or health policy and herd immunity enthusiast. Has this type of herd immunity ever been successful? In short, no according to Dr. Forman, “there has never been a deliberate attempt to reach herd immunity through uncontrolled transmission, rather than a vaccine. “ “Seeking immunity through uncontrolled transmission is the quickest route to a lockdown,” he says.
Is there a more effective approach to ending the coronavirus outbreak? There is, according to Dr. Hanage - pandemic management. “When you see countries such as Japan, Vietnam, Germany, Norway, Australia and New Zealand managing to avoid large surges, there are many possible approaches.” For example, Japan is a high-mask-use society and began putting interventions in place targeting clusters of transmission early in the pandemic. If enough people avoid the “three Cs” — close contact, closed ventilated spaces and crowds — is expected to slow the viral spread.
There are several reasons why herd immunity isn’t the answer to stopping the spread of the new coronavirus:
According to a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Coronavirus antibodies may last for at least 4 months and decline at a slower rate than previously thought. Researchers found that antibody levels seemed to increase in the 2 months after diagnosis and remained at a plateau for the next 2 months. Antibody levels were higher in older people and those who had more severe infections, the researchers wrote. Women also had lower antibody levels than men, and smokers had lower antibody levels than non-smokers.
The safest way to get immunity is through vaccination. Herd immunity isn’t the answer to stopping the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Social distancing and frequent handwashing are currently the only ways to help prevent you and those around you from contracting and potentially spreading SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19.
The Immune System. White blood cells are the first line of defense! The immune system fights off disease causing microorganisms and engineers the healing process. The immune system is vital to fighting every assault on the body! Understanding the role the immune systems plays in overall health will provide you the ability to take responsibility for your own health. The responsibility of the immune system is to learn and identify those things that naturally belong in the body and those foreign or harmful.
The Best Immune Boosters
When taking probiotics for an immune boost, get one with a variety of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains and a high concentration of CFUs, colony forming units – this is the amount of live microorganisms that help to populate the gut.
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