Before we get into why the plan to save Britain from coronavirus through herd immunity is a ludicrous one, let’s first unpack what ‘herd immunity’ is.
Herd immunity occurs when a population forms a resistance to a contagious disease after a sufficiently high proportion of that population becomes immune to the disease.
This is why vaccinations are so important (and why anti-vaxxers are doing so much damage).
Vaccinations are key to maintaining herd immunity.
The problem with the coronavirus, is that it’s highly contagious and there are, to date, no vaccinations against it.
And yet, reports The Guardian, Britain has decided to use ‘herd immunity’ to try and fight it.
Here’s epidemiologist, William Hanage:
The stated aim has been to achieve “herd immunity” in order to manage the outbreak and prevent a catastrophic “second wave” next winter – even if Matt Hancock has tried to put that particular genie back in the bottle this weekend. A large proportion of the population is at lower risk of developing severe disease: roughly speaking anyone up to the age of 40. So the reasoning goes that even though in a perfect world we’d not want anyone to take the risk of infection, generating immunity in younger people is a way of protecting the population as a whole.
Spoiler alert – it really isn’t.
We talk about vaccines generating herd immunity, so why is this different? Because this is not a vaccine. This is an actual pandemic that will make a very large number of people sick, and some of them will die. Even though the mortality rate is likely quite low, a small fraction of a very large number is still a large number.
It’s also very difficult to restrict a virus like this to a specific age group. What about the young people who work in old-age homes, or with people with compromised immune systems?
Is everyone in a high-risk group supposed to withdraw themselves from society for six months until they can emerge once the (so far entirely imaginary) second wave has been averted?
About that second wave: let me be clear. Second waves are real things, and we have seen them in flu pandemics. This is not a flu pandemic. Flu rules do not apply. There might well be a second wave, I honestly don’t know. But vulnerable people should not be exposed to a virus right now in the service of a hypothetical future.
Nope. The plan should be to keep as many people alive as possible.
You can read the full article by Hanage, here.
The long and short of it is, if Britain wants to avoid becoming the next Wuhan, they’d better get their act together.
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