Letter to the editor: Misconceptions about herd immunity | SummitDaily.com

Letter to the editor: Misconceptions about herd immunity

Dr. Peter Raich

The concepts expressed in the letter to the editor by Kim McGahey in the April 10 Summit Daily News are misleading and dangerous. Herd immunity does work for certain infectious diseases, primarily through effective immunization programs. When allowed to occur naturally (by allowing children to infect each other), it can also work, but at a high physical and mental cost, such as polio leading to much disability and measles leading to deaths, heart disease and deafness.

Trying to build herd immunity for infectious diseases such as COVID-19, SARS or MERS does not work for various reasons. With a fatality rate of at least 10 times that of influenza, also including many nonelderly who become infected, letting such a disease infect the entire population at once is both irresponsible and dangerous. This approach has been tried just recently in Great Britain and in Sweden, and both places have reversed course and instituted stricter stay-at-home orders for their population. In addition, recent research has shown that people can infect others while having no symptoms or prior to showing any symptoms. Should such people be eligible to work in retirement communities, assisted living and nursing homes? Also, only two in three people infected with COVID-19 show any degree of protective immunity, and that immunity may not last more than six to 12 months.

Indeed, universal and frequent testing for the virus and antibodies to it would allow us to better stratify risk and possibly select a “safer” working population. Unfortunately, we are not even close to that situation and wont be for months. We all understand that this is an extremely trying time for our communities, but pushing herd immunity theory is not the answer.

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