As the novel coronavirus spreads through much of the globe, the debate over the effectiveness of “herd immunity” continues to swirl in public health and policy circles. So what exactly is this strategy when it comes to fighting an infectious disease?
“Herd immunity is protection in a community from an infectious disease when a large percentage – typically at least 60 percent – become immune,” John Whyte, M.D., chief medical officer of WebMD, told Fox News. “They become immune either by getting the infection and getting better – surviving – or by getting vaccinated. Since the majority of people in a community are then immune, there are fewer people who can become infected.”
But the voracity of COVID-19 is threatening to shatter health care infrastructures, leading most experts to argue that without a vaccine, it is likely to do more harm than good.
“Herd immunity works best when we have a vaccine as well as a disease which doesn’t have serious consequences,” Whyte continued. “With no vaccine for coronavirus, it makes herd immunity less effective — and this disease has serious consequences in some people.”