Coronavirus: Serological study conducted on Spanish population dashes hopes from herd immunity

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July 8, 2020 3:32 PM

While development of a foolproof vaccine does not seem to be on the horizon, a recent study published in the Lancet journal has also dashed hopes pinned on herd immunity as the study has concluded that development of herd immunity is extremely difficult to achieve at this stage.

 Commenting on the findings of the study German virologists Isabella Eckerle and Benjamin Meyr said that the strategy to bank on herd immunity is not only unethical but also unachievable.Commenting on the findings of the study German virologists Isabella Eckerle and Benjamin Meyr said that the strategy to bank on herd immunity is not only unethical but also unachievable.

Herd immunity explained in the context of coronavorus! Production of a Covid-19 vaccine and development of what scientists term as “herd immunity” among the population are being seen as the two best scenarios which could help mankind get rid of the Covid-19 scourge. While development of a foolproof vaccine does not seem to be on the horizon, a recent study published in the Lancet journal has also dashed hopes pinned on herd immunity as the study has concluded that development of herd immunity is extremely difficult to achieve at this stage, IE reported. The study has altogether put a question mark on the feasibility of herd immunity as a possible solution to tackle the Coronavirus. Let’s understand what herd immunity is and what are the implications of the new study on the issue.

Herd immunity: What exactly does this mean?
It simply refers to a situation when a huge section of population has developed immunity to the disease thereby breaking the chain of transmission and slowing down the spread of the virus. However, immunity in a section of population may be induced due to two reasons- either by large scale vaccination or a large section of population coming into the grip of the disease and its resultant recovery. To put it simply, it is believed that a large number of people in a group get infected with the disease then the spread of the disease slows down as the virus cannot find too many active carriers.

The new Lancet study and its findings

Undertaken in Spain, the study has found that only 5 percent of the people in Spain have developed antibodies against Covid-19. In other words the section comprising 95% of the population is still at grave risk to the deadly virus. The findings were reported in a sample of 66,805 participants chosen from the length and breadth of the country. The study was conducted in Spain between April 27 and May 11. The study is the largest serological study conducted in the European continent so far. The study assumes significance also because Spain is world’s second largest affected country in the world and finding of Covid-19 antibodies in only 5 percent of the population indicates that even after wreaking so much of havoc and taking thousands of lives in the country, the virus has only contracted around 5 percent of the population. Also, by the time the antibodies develop in a large section of the population enough to activate herd immunity, the virus will have killed and infected people many times more than the present casualties.Hence banking on herd immunity does not make sense at this stage, the study finds.

Herd immunity is difficult to attain without being ready to accept the collateral damage of many deaths and overwhelmed health infrastructure, the study notes. Commenting on the findings of the study German virologists Isabella Eckerle and Benjamin Meyr said that the strategy to bank on herd immunity is not only unethical but also unachievable.

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