Can Herd Immunity End The COVID-19 Pandemic?


With the rise of COVID-19 and vaccines rolling out for it, we all have heard the term “herd immunity.” Many countries are now rushing to provide vaccines among citizens for building herd immunity to hopefully tackle the pandemic. So what is herd immunity? Moreover, can it finally put an to the COVID-19 pandemic?

What is Herd Immunity?

Herd immunity is when a large part of the population is resistant to a bacteria or virus. This “community immunity” also protects people who are not immune to the disease. It protects vulnerable populations whose immune systems are weak or have low resistance. 

five kids standing
By World Health Organization, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO, CC BY-SA 3.0 igo

When people achieve community immunity, the disease gradually decreases and finally disappears from the population. Eventually, it causes the eradication of the disease, like the eradication of smallpox in 1977.

There are two ways to build community immunity, exposure to the virus or bacteria and vaccination. When you are exposed to a virus, your body develops antibodies that help you fight the disease. The same antibodies will help you again if the same virus infects you. 

On the other hand, vaccines build antibodies without infecting you. However, the vaccines make your body believe that you have the virus to stimulate a response.

Can Herd Immunity End the COVID-19 Pandemic?

The development of COVID-19 vaccines and their distribution has led to the belief that we will achieve herd immunity. Researchers believe that 50% to 67% of the population needs to be resistant to COVID-19 for herd immunity to kick in. Nevertheless, this threshold of herd immunity is also high debatable among experts as WHO has not confirmed the details.

doctor with syringe
By cottonbro from Pexels

The struggle with achieving herd immunity for COVID-19 is that the virus is “novel.” It means that the virus is new, and people have not been exposed or have an immune response developed to combat it.

Adding on to that, SARS-CoV-2 is prone to mutations that might make the previous vaccines ineffective. Furthermore, the virus becomes more prone to mutations when the infection rate is high. So, people have to follow the preventive measures and receive vaccines as soon as possible to stop the virus from mutating.

For the world to eradicate Corona Virus, the vaccines need to roll out faster. At the current rate of vaccinations in the US, half of the country will be vaccinated by the end of Summer 2021.

This still begs the question of can we combat COVID? The short answer is “Yes”. However, it might take months and maybe even years for people to receive vaccinations around the globe.

Researchers believe that 70-80% of the world needs vaccinating to achieve herd immunity and end the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Also Read: Got Vaccinated Against COVID-19, Now What?