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Herd immunity is not the solution to COVID-19
Experts believe a vaccine is the best weapon
By Wen Qing  ·  2020-10-21  ·   Source: Web Exclusive

A pedestrian walks past a sign reminding people to wear masks in Brussels, Belgium, October 17. Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced stricter measures on October 16, including a nation-wide curfew, to limit the spread of COVID-19 (XINHUA)

After spending months fighting and studying the novel coronavirus, experts are convinced that “herd immunity” is not the cure to the pandemic, and a vaccine is what countries should work for.

The so-called herd immunity approach suggests allowing a large uncontrolled outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the low-risk population, mostly young groups, while protecting the vulnerable, mainly the elderly and unhealthy people.

However, this is “a dangerous fallacy unsupported by scientific evidence,” 80 scientists from around the world wrote in an open letter published in the leading medical journal Lancet. This group includes researchers in public health, epidemiology, virology and infectious diseases.

There is no evidence for lasting protective immunity to the virus following natural infection, they said. Additionally, infecting a large portion of a community, even younger people, “risks significant morbidity and mortality across the whole population.”

The possible arrival of a second wave has rekindled interest in herd immunity. Supporters argue this approach would lead to the development of infection-acquired population immunity in the low-risk population, which will eventually protect the vulnerable.

But experts believe any pandemic management strategy relying upon immunity from natural infections for COVID-19 is flawed. “In addition to the human cost, this would impact the workforce as a whole and overwhelm the ability of healthcare systems to provide acute and routine care,” the open letter reads. A vaccine is the best weapon, experts say.

"Any infection anywhere is potentially a threat somewhere else because even if you feel fine and get over it with no problems, no long-term consequences, you might spread it to someone who dies from it. And that's what we're seeing all over the country," Thomas Frieden, former Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told CNN.

Comments to wenqing@bjreview.com

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