As the coronavirus or COVID-19 continues to spread around the world in recent times, many countries have considered herd immunity as a measure of tackling the virus outbreak. However, as per Stuart Ray, a professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, rushing for herd immunity can increase the number of deaths and disability due to the virus outbreak, and should be avoided.
"For a highly infectious virus-like SARS-CoV-2 [the virus that causes COVID-19], the minimal level to reach herd immunity — where we'd expect newly infected people to pass the virus to less than one additional person — is thought to be about 60% of the population," Ray claimed, noting that the estimates of that level vary.
Herd Immunity in US Not Possible
"Even if testing positive for antibodies to the virus indicates that immunity gained will be more than temporary, we are probably far from that threshold," he said. He also mentioned that there is no evidence showing that countries that have avoided lockdown and physical distancing achieved herd protection on a national scale. Ray stated that herd immunity in the US is not possible. That is unless he claimed much more effective treatments are developed.
"The United States has a large vulnerable population; differing strategies at community, state and national levels for dealing with COVID-19; and a health care system with shortcomings and inequities, so it would be very difficult to reach the necessary level of immunity without an effective vaccine," he stated.
He added that the inconsistency in accessing the COVID-19 testing in the US erodes the safety and weakens the confidence in what the results show. Ray claimed that the bigger question still is whether the infection yields long-term immunity.
The deadly virus outbreak has infected more than 23.6 million people globally and claimed the lives of over 813,000 people worldwide. In the US, the number of cases has crossed 5.7 million and is the highest in the world.