herd immunity how it works and its history

In the absence of a vaccine, the increasingly discussed idea of beating the coronavirus pandemic through achieving so-called herd immunity could be a disastrous miscalculation, a senior World Health Organization (WHO) official has warned.

“This is a really dangerous, dangerous calculation,” Michael Ryan, head of the WHO’s health emergencies program, said at a briefing on Monday.

“Humans are not herds,” Ryan said, warning that applying the same standards to humans “can lead to a very brutal arithmetic which does not put people and life and suffering at the center of that equation.”

He said: “This idea that may be countries that had lax measures and have not done anything will all of a sudden magically reach some herd immunity – and so what if we lose a few old people along the way?”

The term originated from veterinary medicine and initially referred to a concept focusing on the overall health of the population, with little regard to individual animals. The idea is based on a premise that when a large part of the population is immune to an infectious disease, it is less likely to spread to the individuals who are not. However, without a vaccine, that means that most people have to beat the illness to develop such immunity – and the price could be too high.

Herd immunity is only applicable to humans when scientists need to calculate how many individuals should be vaccinated for a society to reach proper herd immunity, Ryan said. The assumption that a large portion of the global population has already been infected and had gone through a mild form of Covid-19 have been proven wrong by preliminary epidemiological studies, he added.

“The proportion of severe clinical illness is actually a higher proportion of all those that have been infected,” Ryan said, warning that the novel coronavirus turned out to be much more “serious” than initially thought.

The WHO official did not call out any state in particular, but his statements were seen as a dig at Sweden and other nations that had been reluctant to impose strict lockdown measures, because local health experts argued that herd immunity could be achieved instead.

The idea of herd immunity remains popular in some U.S. media outlets, with no shortage of articles discussing the concept, and some even calling on state governments to drop all restrictions and push populations to develop natural immunity to the disease in lieu of a vaccine.

Sweden passes 3,000 coronavirus deaths as it becomes battleground for lockdown debate

Sweden has already recorded more than 3,000 coronavirus deaths, with the elderly bearing the brunt of the pandemic. But the Scandinavian nation has so far avoided the apocalyptic predictions made by its critics.

Sweden has found itself at the forefront of a heated debate over the effectiveness and necessity of lockdowns.

The Swedish government decided against shutting down schools and businesses, opting instead for a holistic approach that focuses more on protecting vulnerable groups. While citizens have been urged to abide by social distancing measures, Swedish authorities have not enforced these measures with fines and threats of arrest seen in other countries.

Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s state epidemiologist, has admitted that his country has struggled to shield the elderly from the disease.

According to the official data, people aged 80 or older make up around two-thirds of Sweden’s deaths. Many of these deaths have occurred in nursing homes – a tragic trend seen across much of Europe.

Critics of Sweden’s approach to the pandemic have pointed out that the country has a much higher death toll than its Scandinavian neighbors.

In deaths per million people, Sweden is surpassed by a number of countries with strict lockdowns, including Belgium, Italy, France and the UK.

Notably, models which prophesized tens of thousands of deaths in Sweden have been all but discredited. A highly controversial model put forward by Imperial College London (ICL) suggested that by refusing to lock down, Sweden would pass 40,000 deaths shortly, and continue to rise to nearly 100,000 deaths by June.

Passengers pack into Paris Metro train

Footage of Parisians crowded onto a Paris Metro train with no ability to implement social distancing rules left many French netizens fuming as the country began its ‘gradual’ reopening and easing of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.

Passengers were packed like sardines onto a train running on Paris’ busy Line 13 on Monday morning, video from news channel BFM showed, as many people finally returned to work and the government urged public caution to avoid a second spike in virus cases after eight weeks of confinement.

Social distancing seemed a thing of the past, however, as the metro was far too cramped to allow for much distance between commuters, leading many online observers to vent their frustrations.

Few people were shocked by the situation, though, having expected chaotic scenes to unfold once the Metro opened its gates again.

One angry Parisian invited President Emmanuel Macron, along with members of his cabinet, to “come this morning” onto Line 13 and “share with us what we experience there.”

The situation on the already notoriously overcrowded line was made worse by the fact that the first train of the day was reportedly 40 minutes late, no doubt adding to the transit horror.

One silver lining is that most people in the footage were wearing masks (now mandatory on France’s public transport) to protect themselves and others. Some speculated that many people will be recycling their masks too much because they “don’t have another one.”

France’s partial easing of its lockdown comes as more than 26,000 have died of the coronavirus, making it one of the worst affected countries in Europe.


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One Comment

  1. Daid Kennedy says:

    Most countries in Europe are bitterly opposed to euthanasia. They cite the sanctity of human life. In general, the less fit and able are almost invariably the most vulnerable to disease. These frequently include the elderly: the ills of the flesh! The Chinese revere ‘old age’ with its wisdom of experience. The West, less so; novelty holds the higher cachet.

    Before vaccinations became widespread, I cannot recall any talk of ‘herd immunity’ against tuberculosis, poliomyelitis, or typhoid fever. I do recall special ‘isolation hospitals’ such as sanatoria and fever hospitals with specially trained and qualified staff to care for the victims of such diseases.

    On the other hand we have the eugenicists, usually extremely rich and privileged, who wanted smaller, fitter breeds of humans. They were the main financial backers of Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany, although most were not Germans. Many top-ranking Nazis were spirited away to continue their work in the countries where most of their backers came from.

    Now, with virally-based pandemics, and genetic manipulation, we face the possibility of selectively “culling the herd” by what appears as a natural process, a way used by Nature to purify itself of ‘useless feeders’, whilst at the same time benefiting pension funds and national exchequers. How often do we hear of ‘the needs of the economy’, and much less the need to save lives. Most deaths in the West have occurred in care homes for the elderly which have been largely overlooked as far as protection is concerned, despite their vulnerability.