Coronavirus: Have We Finally Reached Herd Immunity Stage In India
Contagious infections that turn into a pandemic generally see their end as being brought about by the development of herd immunity among people or indirect protection. When the coronavirus pandemic broke, nobody was immune to it. As a result, the virus met no resistance and spread at a lightning pace throughout the world. The death rate was high and every day a huge number of people were tested positive for the infection.
However, over the recent months, there has been a significant drop in the number of cases, especially in India, which once topped the list of countries most affected by COVID-19. What has led to this sudden drop in the number of cases? Have we finally reached the stage of herd immunity? It leads us to another question, can anyone be immune to coronavirus disease in the absence of a vaccine? Let us explore it in greater detail.
What Is Herd Immunity?
population, Credit: Canva
Herd immunity refers to the situation in which a sizeable section of the population of a country becomes protected or immune to infection. It paves the way for those who are still not immune to the disease becoming indirectly immune to it. If more than 80% of the population in any country has acquired immunity against the virus, a majority of people will not catch the virus even if they come into contact with a sick person. This will break the chain of the infection and thus the infection rates will dwindle and eventually come to an end.
Many diseases like measles, mumps, polio, in the past have been prevented due to herd immunity. According to experts, it is a useful method of preventing the coronavirus from attacking more number of people. But in order to reach this stage, a sizeable number of people need to get exposed to the virus. But how many people need to be vaccinated in order to obtain herd immunity to COVID-19? Around 50 to 90% of a country’s population needs to develop immunity naturally so that all the other people get protected against the infection.
Has India Reached the Stage of Herd Immunity Against COVID-19?
woman with a mask, Credit: Canva
The caseload of COVID-19 has seen a downward trend since the time when the virus was at its peak in September. Also, with every passing day, this downward trend continues to persist, despite no decrease in testing. Fresh COVID-19 cases are way less than what they were some six months back. It has made many people question whether most of the people in the country have acquired immunity against it.
According to immunologists, urban localities and neighborhoods where the virus spread rapidly a few months ago now do not witness many new cases. It might be because of the development of a localized herd immunity there. After coming in contact with the virus and recovering from the infection, a person develops a natural immunity against the virus. It seems to be true in these places. It can be attributed as one of the chief reasons why the country is witnessing a slide in the infection rate.
Why Are Countries Trying to Obtain Herd Immunity to COVID-19?
women with masks, Credit: Canva
Every country has a high number of people who cannot vaccinate themselves against the virus. It is because these people are allergic to the vaccine and if they get vaccinated, they can develop health complications. In the absence of a vaccine, this group of people will always remain vulnerable to the virus. So, in order to protect and safeguard this section of the population, countries try to obtain herd immunity.
Also, it is not yet known exactly how many people will need to be immuned against COVID-19 so as to stop the virus from spreading completely. If we look at the previous such infections like measles and polio we observe that there is not a standard percentage of people that require to get infected and immune from the infection. It is still not known what percentage of people in India will require protection so that people who are not vaccinated can safeguard themselves against the virus.
Can We Reach Herd Immunity Against COVID-19 through Natural Infections?
coronavirus threat, Credit: Canva
It brings us to the crucial question, can we reach herd immunity against COVID-19 through natural infections? According to the World Health Organization or the WHO, exposing a large number of people to the virus in order to attain this stage is against the ethical laws. It is unjust to make so many people unfortunate victims of the virus as we do not know if the infection will spare an individual’s life or not. Even if we reach this stage, one thing is for sure, we will not reach it without encountering a significant loss of lives and suffering.
Many seroprevalence surveys done in India and elsewhere demonstrate that only 10% of the population till now has been infected and become immune to the virus. If we wait for 80% of people to attain immunity, undoubtedly, it will take a lot of time which will not be devoid of countless deaths. Hence, the only way to prevent the virus is to follow all the prevention protocols and wait for the vaccine to develop.