Herd immunity approach to Covid-19 is dangerous: Experts
The warning is included in an open letter published by The Lancet and signed by 80 international researchers.Updated: Oct 15, 2020, 18:34 IST
A group of 80 researchers on Thursday warned that a so-called ‘herd immunity’ approach to managing Covid-19 by allowing immunity to develop in low-risk populations while protecting the most vulnerable is “a dangerous fallacy unsupported by scientific evidence”.
The warning is included in an open letter published by The Lancet and signed by international researchers with expertise spanning public health, epidemiology, medicine, paediatrics, sociology, virology, infectious disease, health systems, psychology, psychiatry, health policy, and mathematical modeling.
The experts warn that natural infection-based herd immunity approaches risk impacting the workforce as a whole and overwhelming the ability of healthcare systems to provide acute and routine care.
They note that it is still not understood who might suffer from ‘long Covid’. Herd immunity approaches place an unacceptable burden on healthcare workers, many of whom have died or experienced trauma as a result of having to practise disaster medicine, they added.
“The evidence is very clear: controlling community spread of Covid-19 is the best way to protect our societies and economies until safe and effective vaccines and therapeutics arrive within the coming months,” the letter said.
“We cannot afford distractions that undermine an effective response; it is essential that we act urgently based on the evidence.”
“It is critical to act decisively and urgently. Effective measures that suppress and control transmission need to be implemented widely, and they must be supported by financial and social programmes that encourage community responses and address the inequities that have been amplified by the pandemic,” the open letter added.
The experts acknowledged that ongoing restrictions have led to widespread demoralisation and diminishing trust among the public.
In the face of a second wave of infection, there is renewed interest in herd immunity approaches, they noted, but added that any pandemic management strategy relying upon immunity from natural infections for Covid-19 is flawed.