Whenever a new virus spreads, we are not immune to it and hence we fall sick. Since we as a population do not have any resistance against the virus, people interacting with each other also get infected. To stop this infection, we require people to be immune, or in other words, bulk gets immune and hence achieves herd immunity. But how can we reach there?
Understanding herd immunity
Once infectious disease gets a foothold, it keeps spreading. However, someone who falls sick develops antibodies and hence gets immune against the same virus. Over some time more and more people become immune. This slows down the spread of the disease and hence gives protection to those too who have not developed immunity against the particular virus (as the spread slows down considerably).
Mathematically if more than 50% of people have developed immunity, the infection rate will start coming down as not out of every 10 people only 5 can get the disease or spread it. However, these figures are debatable depending on how contagious the disease is. Hence if the disease is more contagious, more people are required to develop immunity before the spread gets checked. The percentage may vary from 50% to 90%.
Immunity can also be achieved by vaccination. Thus the total number of immune people will be those who got infected and those who got vaccinated.
Unfortunately, things are not so simple when it comes to the novel coronavirus. The virus evolves and new strains are being reported worldwide. Unfortunately, immunity gained over a particular strain may not be effective on the other strain.
Herd immunity in other viruses
If we look into the history, there were many viruses extremely contagious such as measles, mumps, chickenpox etc. However, we were able to develop vaccines for these viruses. Since the mutation was not common in these viruses, we achieved herd immunity by vaccinating the maximum population. Although someone who suffered from any of these viruses was immune there was still a scare that children might get it. Vaccination played a big role in achieving herd immunity in these cases.
Some viruses such as Flu mutate over some time. So anti-bodies produced for one strain may not protect us from a new mutated strain. The situation is similar rather a worse in SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing Covid-19. The virus mutates faster than flu and hence even those infected once are not protected. Also, vaccine developed does not give protection against all present and future mutations.
How to achieve Herd Immunity with Covid-19
One of the ways is that when about 70% of people get infected, we achieve herd immunity. We need to remember that virus mutates faster when it is spreading in more people. Hence once the spread slows down, so will the mutation. Hence if we want to live in the world as it was before Covid-19, we need not only to get immunity but also reduce interaction for a long period so that we do not allow the virus to spread and hence mutate.
Vaccines today are not able to stop transmission as new strains are coming at a faster rate than our medical science’s progress in vaccination. However, vaccination has made a difference in spreading. Several countries whose immunization programs are at higher percentages have reduced restrictions. Thus even with current vaccines, things will slow down although it will take a much longer time than previous pandemic experiences the world has.
Can we achieve Herd Immunity against Covid-19?
It may take longer than our previous experiences of a pandemic. This is because we are now dealing with a much larger population. However medical science has also advanced. Our scientists are working towards making a vaccine that defends us from maximum strains (https://h2fcare.com/insight-to-covid-19-vaccine-strategy/ ).
As explained earlier, even with currently available vaccines, we will be able to achieve herd immunity although that might take longer, and also the world will have to face more deaths. However, the spread will slow down and so will mutation.
The best way to achieve herd immunity fast even with the current vaccine is to get maximum, if possible 95% population vaccinated, It may not get irradicated but people available to get infected with old strains will not be available. So the spread and hence mutation will slow down.
Our Future with Covid-19
As more and more people get vaccinated, the spread will slow down. Although it is difficult at this stage to predict the future because how this virus mutates is everyone’s guess. However as it looks today, more vaccines are available. Even drugs for quick treatment are about to hit the market. WHO is working towards ensuring that all countries get vaccinated so that future spread can be stopped (https://covid19.who.int/ ) Remember if we stop the spread, then only we can stop mutation. Hence it is important not only for one country to get vaccinated but for the complete world.
It may take longer but in the end, we will achieve herd immunity and life will be as it used to be in the pre-covid era. The only faster way to achieve this is to have a four-point approach:-
- Do not allow the virus to spread by taking precautions such as masks, social distancing and traveling only when essential.
- Get vaccinated on the first possible opportunity.
- Maintain good health by regularly exercising and pranayama (www.h2fcare.com/prepare-your-respiratory-system/ )
- eating healthy (www.h2fcare.com/what-to-eat-to-recoup-from-covid-19 )