The global coronavirus pandemic has exposed many of us to scientific terminology we may never have encountered otherwise. Herd immunity is one such term that caught people’s attention as we all grasped for solutions at the start of the COVID-19 epidemic. Also known as population immunity and community immunity, this public health concept offers some hope in our battle against COVID-19 but realising it isn’t straightforward.
What is Herd Immunity?
Herd immunity happens when a large proportion of people in the population become immune to an infectious disease through either vaccination or previous infection. Under either of these conditions, we create antibodies which can recognize and destroy the virus when it enters our bodies. Once enough of the population is immune, the virus has nowhere to go and eventually fizzles out, kind of like the participants in a game of musical chairs.
The safest way to achieve herd immunity is through a vaccination program and not by exposing people to the virus. Herd immunity is particularly important for at-risk groups, such as babies and immuno-compromised individuals, who can’t develop resistance on their own. Polio is a great example of herd immunity achieved through a vaccination program in the United States.
How Can Herd Immunity Help Against COVID-19?
It is thought that if enough people have COVID-19 antibodies, the virus will lose the ability to infect people and we will be able to stop it in its tracks. Furthermore, herd immunity will protect vulnerable groups and allow communities to get back to some kind of normality. However, herd immunity is just one tool in our arsenal against coronavirus and due to the emergence of COVID-19 variants, experts advise that people should maintain other prevention measures to limit and stop the spread of the disease.
How Soon Will We Have COVID-19 Herd Immunity?
The WHO has said that to achieve herd immunity against COVID-19 between 70-90% of the population needs to be vaccinated. The big challenges with COVID-19 are that we don’t know how long natural immunity lasts nor do we know if the vaccines prevent people from still spreading the disease; only robust studies will help us find the answers and these take time. Furthermore, the current vaccines are only approved for use in adults. Studies are taking place in children but it may not be until the Autumn that our kids can start to be vaccinated against COVID-19. As roughly 20% of the population in the US is under 16 years old we may not achieve herd immunity until the end of 2021.
Countries around the world are beginning to vaccinate their citizens against Coronavirus in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We believe letting people know you’ve received a COVID-19 vaccine is an important step in overcoming the virus. Once you have the vaccine you can buy your wristband here and let the world know you’re helping defeat COVID-19.