The Truth About Covid-19 and Herd Immunity
A lot of people who have heard about herd immunity for the first time are often shocked in disbelief. But few people understand how true it is in stemming the transmission of COVID-19.
What is herd immunity?
According to an article in Mayo Clinic herd immunity occurs when a large portion of a community (the herd) becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. As a result, the whole community becomes protected — not just those who are immune. One example of this is how the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic ended. To understand, you must know how fast the virus spreads. This is measured by “R naught”, also called reproduction number. Experts say that Covid rnought is between 2 and 3. One person infected can infect between 2 and 3 others.
In herd immunity, there are two paths to achieve this:
First is by vaccination. When a certain percentage of the population is vaccinated and that number reached the threshold for immunity, many people will no longer be able to spread the virus even if they are infected.
If that is so, then why can’t just everyone get vaccinated to reach that threshold? Well, it’s not that easy. There are many drawbacks against vaccination.
- Covid-19 is a new disease that mutates quickly. There is no known vaccine yet as of this writing that is proven to be effective for this new illness.
- The development and trial studies of vaccine that are safe and effective take years.
And it must go under strict clinical trials of 3-5 years. However, since this is a pandemic that has never affected globally before, a vaccine must be produced urgently.
- The vaccine to be effective must be used to at least 60% of the population.
- The vaccine must be at least 50% effective. The good thing, however, is that even if it’s effectiveness is not 100%, when given to the required number people for threshold, herd immunity is still achievable.
- Even if it passed the tests, the length of time that it can fight the virus is not also determinable yet. A good vaccine may last only for a year but after that, the question is – do you need to have anti-Covid shots again? How frequent should you take it to remain immune?
- The threshold of 60% may have further obstacles if some people will refuse to get vaccinated due to religious beliefs or fear for the safety of vaccine.
The second path is natural infection. This happens when a lot of people, about 1/3 – 2/3 of the population gets infected. These infected persons develop immunity. How does this work? When we get infected by a virus, our body produces our own anti-bodies that help us fight infection and clear out the virus from our system.
Aside from antibodies, we also have T cells in our body. These T cells can target the virus and kill it. Good thing is that antibodies and T cells work hand in hand.
Here are some of the ways you can develop a strong immune system:
- Have enough rest and sleep. Many of the healthcare workers who succumbed to death were overwhelmed with tiredness.
- Take vitamin c and d supplements and zinc.
- Drink lots of water.
- Get up from your bed and exercise. Do your own work out at home.
- Prayers – a good spiritual calmness is good for your body.
So now you’re asking – “Why can’t everybody just go out and have that herd immunity?” Experts say that it is not that easy and is too risky.
First, if a lot of people get infected at once, many will die and the healthcare workers and hospitals will be overwhelmed.
Secondly, there’s no proof yet that those who got infected will develop immunity. Everything is still under study as of this writing, hoping that it will result in a positive way. According to latest studies, however, there is no reported large number of reinfection so there is something to hope for.
Thirdly, as of July 2020, less than 5% are infected. To achieve herd immunity through natural infection around 60-70% must be infected. This will take years to achieve. Therefore, the safe vaccine and natural infection should work both ways to achieve goal towards herd immunity.
While waiting for the safe vaccine to be formulated and mass produced and while waiting to achieve herd immunity, here are simple things we can do as has always been advised by the medical experts:
- Wear masks and face shields when going outside.
- Wash your hands frequently.
- When in public places, sanitize your hands with an alcohol based hand sanitizer.
- Practice social distancing.
One thing is sure, the solution to this pandemic may come a long way but it will surely come.