Is the world ready for herd immunity against coronavirus?
It has been five months since the presence of coronavirus in the world. The SARS-CoV-2 infection forced people to isolate themselves in their homes, it broke the supply chains, disrupted travel and tourism, shattered the economy, and hit the healthcare of the countries hard. So scientists all over the world desperately are trying to find the vaccine or antidote for coronavirus. But now countries have reached the limit of the cash-strapped economy as they cannot bear further lockdown on trade and industries. After halting the working of the entire country, the government can no longer just sit around and wait for the vaccines. In such times, the concept of herd immunity against coronavirus runs through the minds of most leaders.
Herd Immunity is a very complex benchmark to achieve and must be dealt with precautions and lots of pre-planning.
Herd Immunity means when a majority of the population develops immunity or resistance to a highly contagious disease and this is used to limit the spread of the disease further. For example, if 80 percent of the population develops resistance or has become immune to a disease, they won’t be able to spread the virus, hence safeguarding the rest of them. Herd Immunity is created when people contract an infection and their bodies automatically produce antibodies to fight off the infection. Normally, Vaccines which often have the disease-causing microorganism in an immobile state, allow the body to produce those antibodies to protect a person from catching the infection, making him / her immune to it. But it is not as simple as it sounds. To achieve Herd Immunity against coronavirus and implement it in the world during an ongoing severe outbreak is risky for many reasons.
A certain population must compulsorily build immunity
If there are 100 people in a room, of whom 90 are immune to coronavirus, then the remaining 10 are unlikely to catch the disease. The antibodies present in the majority of the population, produced whether from exposure to a disease or vaccine, protect the remaining susceptible people. However, if the number of immune persons is reduced to 80, the chances of contracting the infection for the remaining 20 are greater. Given the information available on the novel coronavirus, epidemiologists have determined that to reach herd immunity against coronavirus, at least 70 percent of the population needs to be immune.
It can do more harm if went wrong
We are underestimating the power of the highly contagious coronavirus. COVID-19 is a lethal disease. When herd immunity is achieved and lockdowns are lifted and it doesn’t work, a large of infected people may fill the hospitals, making the situation worse. It may also lead to higher death rates.
Asymptomatic people can be a barrier in achieving herd immunity
A large section of infected people with coronavirus does not show any signs or symptoms of the disease. They invisible carriers of the virus. Since they do not have any symptoms they can be a trouble in the path of achieving herd immunity
Relapse of infection
Coronavirus records of a person infecting after he/she has recovered from COVID-19 once have been published. Therefore it is not yet certain whether the antibodies developed for the first time against coronavirus are effective in fighting it off the next time.
The World Health Organisation, too, has emphasized the notion. Herd Immunity is shrouded in uncertainties with human immunity not yet confirmed. Achieving Herd Immunity against the novel coronavirus isn’t possible. Scientists strongly advocated gaining immunity against intentional exposure to the infection-a common practice with chickenpox before the varicella vaccine was created. The only feasible way to contain the spread is to follow strictly the guidelines for social distancing until a vaccine is developed. Even as lockdown restrictions are lessening, it is worth remembering that social and physical distancing is the only way to break the transmission chain and prevent the overwhelming of hospitals.