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Herd Immunity: Effective Mitigation or Fatal Approach

S ilent streets, abandoned scenes, everything in the world seems to be standing still. Economic drop, businesses closing up, the monetary cycle almost being put to stop. 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 36, the growth of coronavirus cases ambiguously mimics the Fibonacci sequence. With infection and death tolls growing vastly each day, experts are seeking for the best mean to be taken in order to fight and hopefully put a stop to the festering pandemic (Rutte, 2020).

As Antonio Regalado cited on his article, there are rudimentarily three ways designed to stop the Covid-19 disease for good. It comprises unusual restrictions like lockdowns and quarantines, as well as belligerent testing, to put a halt to transmission. That may be impossible now since the virus is in over 100 countries (Business Insider, 2020). Another is a vaccine that could protect everyone, but it still needs to be developed and tested for viability. Lastly is theoretically effective but horrible to ruminate: wait until adequate people acquire it, herd immunity (Regalado, 2020).

Herd immunity is broadly used but conveys sundry of meanings (Heymann & Alyward, 2008). In a journal published by Paul Fine, Ken Eames, and David L. Heymann, herd immunity could be the description of the proportion insusceptible among personages in a population that may lead to a decline in incidence of infection. Through a vaccine, like in the case of smallpox and measles, herd immunity could be achieved. In addition, vaccines create herd immunity too. However it is ghastly to contemplate that it would take ample amount of lives to reach herd immunity. Naturally achieving herd immunity relies on people being infected, recovering, and then becoming immune to further infection. This works if chances of reinfection are low or, ideally, zero. When half of a certain population is deemed immune to a certain illness, an outbreak no longer grows in size.

Though seen as a legible option, utilizing herd immunity against covid-19 is not a fool-proof plan, in this stage of uncertainty with the characteristics of an unpredictable virus it cannot be contemplated if pursuing a herd community as high risk with high reward. The more infectious a virus is, the more people need to be immune for us to achieve herd immunity (MIT Technology Review, 2020). Natalie Dean, a biostatistician at the University of Florida who specializes in infectious disease epidemiology, along with other experts, share the same sentiment. Specialists estimate that it could take at least 18 months to develop a vaccine for this coronavirus (Business Insider, 2020). It is currently unknown whether anyone can get re-infected with the novel coronavirus, which complicates plans to achieve herd immunity naturally (Montanari, 2020). While there is viability in the theory of herd immunity, it is still undistinguishable how communicable the novel coronavirus is and how severely it affects varied demographics.

Herd immunity does have its upside. It can be utilized as an effective means to gather data and formulate an indomitable vaccine, also to further mitigate mass transmission. As the Philippine General Hospital concurred, survivor’s antibodies may cure severe COVID-19 patients. Individuals tend to become immune from recovering from an earlier infection or through vaccination, these very individuals are set to comprise the herd immunity (Merill, 2013). But, as mentioned, it is not a good idea to consider herd immunity this early, moreso accelerate it (Dean, 2020). As the UK Secretary for health and social care, Matt Hancock, clarified that herd immunity should not be a goal or policy but rather a scientific concept.

COVID-19 herd immunity may be a moving option but it should, by no means, be accelerated. Until a solid vaccine or enough data comes, herd immunity must be a side effect of the outbreak (MIT Technology Review, 2020), though it may contribute to further breakthrough at the conundrum at hand, it must come natural not with intent. “Suppressing transmission means that we won’t build up herd immunity, that we are driving it down to such a low level that we have to keep those [measures] in place.” - Azra Ghani, the lead epidemiologist on the new model of the outbreak from Imperial College London.

CITATIONS

  • Fine, P., Eames, K., & Heymann, D. (April, 2011). “Herd Immunity”: A Rough Guide. Clinical Infectious Diseases, Col. 52, ISSN 7 (pp. 911-916). [PDF File]. Retrieved on April 1, 2020, from https://doi.org/10.1093/cid/cir007
  • Manila Bulletin. PGH Survivors Antibodies Might Cure Severe COVID-19 Patients. Retrieved on April 03, 2020, from https://news.mb.com.ph/2020/04/03/pgh-survivors-antibodies-might-cure-severe-covid-19-patients/
  • Merill. R.M. (2013). Introduction to Epidemiology.Jones & Barlett Publishers. Pp. 68-71. ISBN 978-1449645175.
  • Montanari, S. (March, 2020). Why Herd Immunity Won’t Work in the Fight Against Coronavirus. Retrieved on April 1, 2020, from https://www.businessinsider.com/what-is-herd-immunity-and-how-well-build-it-against-the-coronavirus-2020-3
  • Regalado, A. (May, 2020). What is herd immunity and can it stop the coronavirus? Retrieved on April 1, 2020 on https://www.technologyreview.com/s/615375/what-is-herd-immunity-and-can-it-stop-the coronavirus/

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