WHO head warns herd immunity no solution

AFP
The WHO chief warned on Monday against just allowing the novel coronavirus to spread in the hope of achieving so-called herd immunity, saying it was "unethical."
AFP
WHO head warns herd immunity no solution
Reuters

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

The World Health Organization chief warned on Monday against just allowing the novel coronavirus to spread in the hope of achieving so-called herd immunity, saying it was “unethical.”

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus cautioned against calls in some countries to let COVID-19 run its course until enough people develop the immunity needed to naturally halt its spread.

“Herd immunity is a concept used for vaccination, in which a population can be protected from a certain virus if a threshold of vaccination is reached,” he said.

For measles, for instance, it is estimated that if 95 percent of the population is vaccinated, the remaining 5 percent will also be protected from the spread of the virus.

“Herd immunity is achieved by protecting people from a virus, not by exposing them to it,” Tedros said.

“Never in the history of public health has herd immunity been used as a strategy for responding to an outbreak, let alone a pandemic.”

Relying on naturally obtaining herd immunity would be “scientifically and ethically problematic,” he added.

“Allowing a dangerous virus that we don’t fully understand to run free is simply unethical. It’s not an option.”

Tedros pointed to the lack of information on the development of immunity to COVID-19, including how strong the immune response is and how long antibodies remain in the body.

Tedros pointed to some cases where people are believed to have been infected a second time. He also stressed the many long-term health problems of infection, which researchers are only just beginning to understand.

And he pointed out it has been estimated less than 10 percent of the population in most countries are believed to have contracted the disease.

“The vast majority of people in most countries remain susceptible to this virus,” he said. “Letting the virus circulate unchecked therefore means allowing unnecessary infections, suffering and death.”

Overall, it is estimated that 0.6 percent of people who contract Covid-19 die from the disease, Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on the virus, told at Monday’s briefing.

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