Herd Immunity.

Present Scenario:

We are all aware what is going on in the world now. With the pandemic looming over our heads, claiming thousands of lives with each passing day, medical experts along with several National & International organizations are investing their constant time to bring out an appropriate vaccine to arrest the condition. In the meanwhile, the concept of ‘Herd Immunity’ is being continuously discussed in the global forum. Let’s understand what is it exactly!

People are immune to a few diseases as they have some antibodies which is specific to the virus of that specific disease. This happens when a person starts showing symptoms of a specific virus. Since the virus has infected that person, the antibodies of that virus start developing inside the body gradually. This way the person becomes immune to that specific virus and the next time the body has enough antibodies to fight the virus so symptoms will be minimum.

What is Herd Immunity?

Herd immunity is where, if a large group of people is immune to a virus, then an individual with staggered immunity in the group is unlikely to become infected. It happens when people in a community are protected from a virus and its associated disease to a degree that people who are not immune are still protected because of the high population immunity.

For example: If someone with measles is surrounded by people who are vaccinated against measles, the disease cannot easily be passed on to anyone, and it will quickly disappear again. It is certainly not people or age specific, the strong immune system of a child could prevent an older adult from getting infected.

Herd immunity also isn’t something that can work for any disease. It doesn’t matter how many people are vaccinated against tetanus, for example: If someone who isn’t vaccinated steps on a rusty nail, they can still get infected, because tetanus lives in reservoirs outside of the human body. An infection must be transmitted between people for herd immunity to have a protective effect.

This is called ‘herd immunity’, ‘community immunity’ or ‘herd protection’, and it gives protection to vulnerable people such as new-born babies, elderly people and those who are too sick to be vaccinated.

Herd Immunity & COVID19:

For now, building herd immunity may not work in tackling the COVID-19 outbreak since there isn’t yet a vaccine for this virus. For Herd Immunity to work, a bunch of people have to be vaccinated to prevent them from getting affected by this virus. At least <90% of the community has to develop a strong immunity, to prevent the spread to the rest. This way the ones who are not getting vaccinated can be protected too.

The global spread of the coronavirus which has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) – has left many people wondering when and how the outbreak may subside. The problem with coronavirus is that no-one has had it before, regardless of age. If the risks of COVID-19 were not inexplicably high, it would technically be possible to bring about herd immunity by allowing the disease to run rampant through a population. Hence, it is clear why epidemiologists completely disagree with the applicability of idea in the present situation due to the unavailability of any vaccine yet.

Way Forward:

Vaccines create a weapons cache for a disease without the body ever having to fight off the disease itself, which is why herd immunity is something that’s generally pursued through vaccination rather than infection.

Now we could say that herd immunity is basically an evolutionary pressure on any contagious infections or diseases. In case a vaccine has been developed and injected in varied people of the community, the virus could be eradicated or avoided inevitably. Immunity could be acquired through natural infections or artificial vaccinations. However, if a critical number of the population acquires the herd immunity threshold, the infection or virus would undoubtedly cease to exist. Therefore, it definitely showcases a specific pathway to control the pandemic and increases the urge to bring out a vaccine to contain the virus as soon as possible.

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