Doctors reject ‘herd immunity’ strategy for coronavirus control


This article has been corrected to adjust a mathematical error.

MADISON (WKOW) — We are on the cusp of 200,000 people across the country being infected with the coronavirus every day.

But does that mean we’ll have herd immunity soon?

Dr Jeff Pothof with UW Health says, probably not.

“It can mitigate disease,” he said. “It’s usually not your best strategy, especially if a disease has a lot of morbidity and mortality.”

Herd immunity is the idea that if there are more people who have a disease than those who don’t, the natural immunity you build up will protect others.

For the coronavirus, Pothof says between 65-85 percent of the population would have to have an immune response for it to be effective.

At 10 million official cases in the US, only 3 percent of the country has had coronavirus so far.

A disease with a one percent mortality rate would kill more than 3 million Americans before it would provide herd immunity.

The current COVID mortality rate would more than double that.

According to ABC News, it’s an idea the White House has supported, without explicitly referring to it by name, as a way to keep the economy open without major shutdowns.

But Dr. Pothof says there’s a much more humane strategy we can use before a vaccine becomes widespread, urging people to wear masks.

He also said we don’t know how long immunity lasts after an infection.

In the only other well known coronavirus outbreak, when SARS spread in 2003, immune response lasted two to three years.

We also don’t know the long term effects the disease will have on survivors.

“It’s just not a strategy. You’re going to find many public health officials and doctors endorsing,” he said.

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