What is 'Herd Immunity' and will it control the COVID-19 pandemic?
Amidst the Coronavirus chaos, we often hear the term 'Herd Immunity' and many experts are of the view that it will help in treating the highly contagious virus in populated countries. But, due to the lack of vaccine, herd immunity cannot be practised. WHO has called off this measure stating that there's insufficient information about the virus. Coronavirus or COVID-19 has spread in more than 213 countries including India. So far, more than 3 million people have been infected with the deadly virus. India has witnessed thousands of deaths so far from COVID-19 and has registered 29,489 active cases of the novel virus.
Some people develop harsh symptoms when they are infected with the virus while others develop mild symptoms. While some experts are of the view that herd immunity will help in treating the novel virus, others state that herd immunity will only slow the spread of the virus and will not curb it. Let us find out what the term herd immunity means and will it help in controlling the novel virus.
Herd immunity is a kind of indirect protection from an infectious disease. It is a measure of providing protection to those people who are less immune compared to others when a large number of population is prone to an infectious disease. This measure helps in breaking the vicious chain of infection or may help in stopping or slowing down the infectious disease. The individuals who are more prone to the infection and cannot become immune due to medical reasons can be provided protection through this method. In simple words, when a large number of people catch any infectious disease, say COVID-19, the body of the people affected will produce the antibodies in response to fight the disease and eradicate it.
In simple words, Coronavirus disease must be allowed to spread until a large population becomes infected and a few are left uninfected. If the infected people survive, then they will become immune to the Coronavirus disease. Thus, COVID-19 will find it difficult to find a susceptible host. This, in turn, will slow down or in some cases stop the spread of the Coronavirus disease.
Herd Immunity: History
In 1930, herd immunity was first recognized by A.W. Hedrich. Hedrich noticed that after many children became immune to measles, the infection rate temporarily decreased. But, in spite of this, measles couldn’t be controlled until the measles vaccine began in the year 1960. Mass vaccination to induce herd immunity has proved to be successful in stopping the spread of an infectious disease.
Herd Immunity: As a preventive measure for Coronavirus
The idea of herd immunity is to let the majority of the people to get infected with the infectious disease. Now the infected individuals will in turn fight with the infectious disease to recover after a mild illness. The body of the infected individuals will also retain memory on how to fight with the infectious disease and will ward it off in a better way than before. It must be noted that the herd immunity works well with a vaccination. Through vaccine, a small amount of virus is injected in the body and the immune system develop antibodies to get rid of the disease without getting sick.
Herd Immunity: What WHO states?
World Health Organisation, WHO has called off the herd immunity for COVID-19 as there’s insufficient information about the virus. The WHO has criticised the herd strategy stating that far greater action is required in fighting with the COVID-19. Also, herd immunity works well with vaccination but there’s no coronavirus vaccine yet.
While herd immunity has proved to be successful in several cases but it does not help in curing all the diseases. Only contagious diseases (diseases which can be transmitted from one person to another) can be cured with the help of herd immunity. Though COVID-19 is a contagious disease, different experts have different opinions when it comes to warding off the highly contagious disease with the help of herd immunity.
To sum up, herd immunity will not curb the coronavirus until a vaccine is developed. However, it can be a way to protect those people in the community who are more vulnerable to the virus or have low functioning immune systems.