General Health

Herd Immunity: What It Means for COVID-19

With the constantly increasing COVID cases, health officials are striving to find a way to protect the public from the virus.

You’ve probably heard officials mentioning the term herd immunity. This is the most viable approach to managing and controlling the spread.

But, how does immunity work for this particular disease? Is reaching herd immunity an unattainable goal? What can we expect soon? 

Here, we will answer all the questions for you.

By compiling the latest data, we will give you a detailed insight into precisely what herd immunity has to offer. Including what experts are saying can happen for the foreseeable future.  

Herd Immunity – What Is It Exactly?

To get indirect protection against a certain disease, the population needs immunity. This is what we call herd protection or herd immunity.

Immunity occurs when a significant portion of a community becomes immune to a virus or an illness, making transmission from person to person very unlikely. 

This can occur in two ways:

Natural immunity

People who contracted the illness via natural infection and developed an antibody, therefore building immune response. This is natural herd immunity.

Getting a coronavirus vaccine

This provides the system with a product that achieves immunity.

For example, if 80% of the community is immune to a disease, 4 out of 5 people who engage with an infected individual will not get sick.

This tactic provides a practical method of keeping the virus or infection under control. 

How Does It Work?

Numerous bacterial and viral diseases spread from one person to the other. To control SARS, we would need to break that chain and halt the infection.

That’s why getting a COVID 19 vaccine for building a properly functioning immune system becomes a top priority. 

Particularly for susceptible individuals with weak immunity, those with complex medical conditions, pregnant women, older adults, young children, and newborn babies. 

Herd Immunity Recent Data

Depending on how contagious the virus is, about 50% to 90% of the population might have to build immunity to subside the disease rates.

But, these rates aren’t a “magic threshold,” especially when dealing with the novel coronavirus. 

Some experts estimate that the herd immunity threshold for SARS is at 60% to 70%. The bigger the immunity, the more impactful the benefit.

In other words, a single vaccinated person wouldn’t be enough to achieve the desired result. That’s why more people getting a vaccination can ensure a more positive outcome. 

Take measles, for example. About 19 out of 20 people should have a vaccine for measles to provide immunity. When a child does get infected, those around them won’t. This, therefore, curbs the disease.

That’s the whole purpose of immunity for coronavirus. To prevent the possibility of spreading or contracting the SARS virus. 

According to a 2020 survey, 46.8% of people would get vaccinated if the vaccine proved to have suitable effectiveness, safety, and availability. Whereas 6.1% wouldn’t. About 14.2% had a neutral or no opinion when it came to COVID 19 vaccination. 

Does It Really Work?

Population immunity did work for certain diseases.

The population of Norway established a partial immunity to the swine flu (H1N1 virus) with natural and vaccination immunity.

Similar reports were noted in Norway when influenza resulted in fewer deaths from 2010 to 2011. Due to the population becoming immune to it. 

Of course, not every disease with available vaccination could be removed with herd immunity. For instance, tetanus. This bacteria is present in the environment. You can’t get it from an infected person. Therefore immunity won’t work on it. 

That’s why vaccination gives you the only available form of protection. So, even if immunity can’t get rid of the disease, it can prevent its widespread.

With the COVID 19 pandemic, the severe disease calls for drastic measures to alleviate its impact

COVID and Herd Immunity

Regular hand washing and proper social distancing are currently the most effective ways of controlling the infection.

Right now, vaccination remains the safest and most effective option at practicing herd immunity COVID.

The clinical trials and research for medications and antivirals for treating the infection are still ongoing. That’s what makes the vaccine rollout a vital strategy.

The vaccines recommended and authorized in the U.S. that can help with herd immunity COVID are:

  • Moderna vaccine
  • Pfizer vaccine 
  • Janssen / Johnson & Johnson vaccine

Other vaccines that also have very good records and high efficiency for establishing the herd immunity threshold for the coronavirus pandemic are:

  • Sputnik V vaccine
  • Sinopharm vaccine
  • AstraZeneca vaccine

Every vaccine type for COVID 19 virus is recorded to have a different yet somewhat similar vaccine efficacy.

When the Phase 3 data emerged in November, it showed mRNA vaccines manufactured by Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech, depicted over 90% efficacy.

Many experts were astonished and pleased with the results. 

Although each vaccine has its potency and impact, vaccination still profoundly affects creating COVID 19 herd immunity.

The risk of death and severe illness from coronavirus drastically outweighs the benefit of natural immunity.

Proper herd immunity COVID can provide a solid boost when trying to avoid the disease. 

Getting a vaccine can provide the system with a protective mechanism without dealing with the coronavirus disease.

For sterilizing immunity to be obtained, a vaccine must activate a certain immunologic response, usually in neutralizing antibodies. 

Those who get vaccinated may have to do an antibody test. Antibodies are proteins that the immune system creates right after you’ve received a vaccination or contracted an infection. 

What Does the Future Have in Store?

Early in the outbreak, people saw herd immunity as the best type of endgame when vaccination was still out of reach. The goal was to get rid of the virus and get everything back to normal.

Now, over 50% of American adults have received at least one vaccine dose. However, vaccination rates are dropping. 

According to public health experts, the threshold for obtaining herd immunity seems more and more unobtainable. At least for the foreseeable future for this infectious disease.

The constantly circulating COVID 19 variants and vaccine hesitancy will most likely keep herd immunity out of reach. 

Based on recent reports, scientists are working to create a vaccine to help with the virus variant or the SARS COV 2 infection. If we do get it, we could be one step closer to obtaining herd immunity in the future. 

The pathogen is here to stay, but getting vaccinated can provide better odds of restoring normalcy. However, getting the majority of the population to agree with vaccination is proving to be a real challenge.

The disease itself is difficult to control without it. So, a vaccine will remain the only option at transforming the pathogen into a controllable threat. 

Conclusion

This virus has turned our world upside down. It has caused some significant and irreparable damage to people’s lives and the economy.

Despite proving to be a challenging goal to reach, herd immunity remains a vital strategy.

With proper group protection, people can hinder or stop the spread of the virus, just like it did with swine flu and measles. 

The most efficient way to manage the virus is with vaccination. But, those who contract the disease can also build a natural immune response to it. The problem with coronavirus is that it can prove fatal. 

Depending on how serious the infection is. So, having an option to reduce the possibility of transmission and serious consequences can prove a useful long-term strategy.

Now that you know the actual benefit of herd immunity, you might feel more inspired to reduce your vulnerability to the virus.

Sources

  1. Jeffrey V. Lazarus. (2020). A global survey of potential acceptance of a COVID-19 vaccine. Retrieved from: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-020-1124-9
  2. Gypsyamber D’Souza. (2021). What is Herd Immunity and How Can We Achieve It With COVID-19. Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Retrieved from: https://www.jhsph.edu/covid-19/articles/achieving-herd-immunity-with-covid19.html
  3. World Health Organization. (2020). Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Herd immunity, lockdowns and COVID-19. Retrieved from: https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/herd-immunity-lockdowns-and-covid-19

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