Governments suggest using herd immunity to battle COVID-19

Governments have proposed the use of herd immunity to battle the coronavirus pandemic. However, the results can be devastating.

People may have seen or heard the term herd immunity from social media or the news. Implementing herd immunity is definitely one way to combat the new coronavirus. Some leaders such as Boris Johnson, United Kingdom’s prime minister, recommends this kind of solution to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Herd immunity occurs when a certain community becomes immune to a deadly disease that stops the illness from spreading. This method can happen in two ways. First, let people acquire the disease and with time, let the body build an immune response to it.

Second, people get a vaccine to achieve immunity. However, there is no existing vaccine yet that can make us immune to the new coronavirus.

How it works

When most people within a community become immune to a disease, it slows down and eventually stops the spread of the disease. Most bacterial and viral infections like the coronavirus spread via person to person. This can be broken when people can’t transmit or get the disease.

This helps in protecting people who cannot get vaccinated or those who have weak immune systems such as babies, pregnant women and senior citizens.

Natural immunity

Natural immunity happens when a person becomes immune to an infectious disease after getting it. Natural immunity triggers the body’s immune system to create antibodies that will fight the virus causing the disease inside the body.

If the person acquires the same disease again, the antibodies formed during the first infection will attack the virus before it spreads through the body. A good example is a person who has had chickenpox during childhood. The person will never acquire the disease again even if they are around someone who has chickenpox.

Does it work?

Herd immunity can work for a few particular diseases. In Norway, people have successfully achieved partial herd immunity to the swine flu through natural immunity. The country also had lower deaths caused by influenza because most of the population gained immunity to it.

However, going for herd immunity right away to fight the disease would cause devastating results. This is because a lot of people will become extremely ill and will overwhelm hospitals.

Herd immunity can definitely stop the spread of an infection. However, the coronavirus can change and adapt. This means it does not always ensure that a person can be protected from the disease.

Featured image courtesy of Al Jazeera/Website Screenshot

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