Herd immunity unlikely in our lifetimes, should be heading UK's way: Expert

  • The World Health Organisation (WHO) has long back ruled out herd immunity strategy as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic, calling it scientifically and ethically problematic.
Herd immunity was one of the most talked-about concepts, and many believed that the world will reach a stage where the virus will get eliminated.(Bloomberg)
Herd immunity was one of the most talked-about concepts, and many believed that the world will reach a stage where the virus will get eliminated.(Bloomberg)
Published on Aug 04, 2021 03:32 PM IST
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By | Edited by Kunal Gaurav, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

People should avoid using the term ‘herd immunity’ in the context of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) as it is unlikely to materialise during our lifetimes, an expert has warned. Herd immunity is a stage where a certain percentage of the population gets infected with the virus and develops immunity against it, breaking the transmission chain. It interrupts the transmission chain and the virus spread is brought to an almost absolute halt.

Herd immunity was one of the most talked-about concepts, and many believed that the world will reach a stage where the virus will get eliminated. In an article for The Conversation, Shabir A. Madhi, dean faculty of health sciences and professor of vaccinology at the University of the Witwatersrand, has now said that the virus is unlikely to be eliminated.

Madhi listed several reasons that, he said, have forced a shift in our thinking about herd immunity, including the mutations making the virus more transmissible and their ability to evade vaccine-induced immunity. The inequitable distribution of vaccines across the world, with low- and lower-middle-income countries largely bearing the brunt of it, provides fertile ground for the virus to mutate, he added.

Also Read | Centre says coronavirus case trajectory in eight states concerning

Madhi opined that since no country will lock its border perpetually, the entire global population will need to reach a similar immunity threshold about the same time. He suggested that the world should rather be heading the way the UK has moved - high vaccination rates and getting back to a relatively normal lifestyle.

“The UK experience is where we should be heading. That is getting back to a relatively normal lifestyle, provided that we’ve got a adequate number of people vaccinated, and particularly people who are at higher risk of developing severe COVID-19,” he wrote.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has long back ruled out herd immunity strategy as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic, calling it scientifically and ethically problematic. WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had stressed that herd immunity has never in the history of public health been used as a strategy for responding to a virus outbreak.

(With PTI inputs)

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