'Humans are not herds': WHO slams the idea of 'herd immunity' for Coronavirus taking a dig at Sweden

Sweden has resisted imposing lockdown, insisting that the country is close to reaching herd immunity

Novel coronavirus has infected over 4.2 million people from around the world, with the USA being the worst-hit country. Unfortunately, there isn't any cure for the deadly disease that has killed over 287,000 people, worldwide, until now.

In the absence of a vaccine, the concept of 'herd immunity' is being widely discussed. According to the concept, if enough people in a society (ie 'herd') gets immune to a disease, naturally or through vaccination, the disease is less likely to infect those who aren't. On Monday, the WHO cautioned against this very concept, calling it "a really dangerous calculation".

Michael Ryan
Michael Ryan, Executive Director of the WHO's Health Emergencies Programme Screen Grab/YouTube

Cautioning against the concept of 'herd immunity', Michael Ryan, Executive Director of WHO's Health Emergencies Programme said, "This idea that maybe countries that had lax measures and haven't done anything will all of a sudden magically reach some herd immunity -- and so what if we lose a few old people along the way? This is a really dangerous, dangerous calculation."

"Humans aren't herds" and applying same standards to humans "can lead to very brutal arithmetic which does not put people and life and suffering at the centre of that equation", Ryan added, RT reported.

The concept of herd immunity is applied on humans only when scientists determine how many individuals need to be vaccinated for the community to reach a certain level of immunity, WHO official said. The assumption that a large portion of the global population has already been infected and had gone through a mild form of COVID-19 have been proven wrong by preliminary epidemiological studies, he added. Also, "the proportion of severe clinical illnesses is actually a higher proportion of all those that have been infected," he further mentioned.

A dig on Sweden?

Although he didn't name any particular country, the comments were seen as a sly dig on Sweden, which has resisted imposing lockdown and rather insists that it might reach herd immunity soon. This wasn't difficult to guess as Ryan said, "in some countries, over half of the cases have occurred in long-term care facilities".

Recently, the Swedish Health and Social Affairs Minister Lena Hallengren admitted the country's failure to protect its elderly. "We failed to protect our elderly. That's really serious, and a failure for society as a whole. We have to learn from this, we're not done with this pandemic yet," she said, France24 reported. As on April 28, 90 percent of those who died from COVID-19 were those above 70 years of age, half of whom were nursing home residents.

As on Tuesday, the country has witnessed 3,256 COVID-19 deaths, which is several times higher than in neighbouring Norway with 224 deaths, Finland with 271 and Denmark with 533 deaths.

Related topics : Coronavirus