A US vaccine expert claims the idea of letting coronavirus burn out is fanciful and not feasible for any country to achieve herd immunity.
Dr Paul Offit, director of the vaccine education centre in Philadelphia, said immunity gained from common coronaviruses are shot-lived and there is still no prospect of herd immunity from them.
It comes as Dr Anthony Fauci, America's most senior expert in the study of infectious diseases, said that hoping that the population will achieve a natural herd immunity could lead to an "enormous" death toll.
But still some lawmakers point to Sweden’s policy of allowing the novel coronavirus to run its course in the population in the hope of a natural herd immunity arising.
Instead of imposing a national lockdown like most other countries, then Swedish authorities relied on people’s “common sense” to keep the pandemic under control.
Dr Paul Offit, director of the vaccine education centre in Philadelphia told CNN, it would never be feasible for any country to achieve herd immunity
He explained that 15-20% of respiratory diseases that come into his hospital are caused by one of the 4 common coronaviruses – and despite their being in circulation for decades, there’s still no prospect of herd immunity from them.
He adds that the immunity we do gain from these coronaviruses is short lived – lasting a few years at most
As an example, he cites the case of measles, which does confer lifelong immunity on the victims but even so has never reached anything like herd immunity in the general population
The only way diseases like measles and smallpox can be contained, he says, is with a vaccine and the same is true of Covid-19.
Coronavirus will be with us forever unless we find a vaccine, he says.
Pressed as to how herd immunity could be achieved, he said “we would see more suffering and more death” and added that even people who had recovered from the disease would still be capable of passing it to others if they become reinfected.
He insists that the only long term strategy that will keep Covid-19 under control is a combination of a vaccine and basic hygiene precautions such as social distancing and face coverings.
He stressed the idea of letting coronavirus burn out and the US population reaching herd immunity is “fanciful,” adding "it’s never happened with any virus and it’s not going to happen with this virus.”
He says that people who describe Sweden’s response to the virus as a success story are “making it up,” pointing out that the country has seen far more hospitalisations than neighbouring states such as Norway and Denmark.
He lists a great many remedies such a hydroxychloroquine that have been promoted as “cures” for Covid -19 will never work. Nothing but a vaccine will contain this virus, he says.
Dr Leana Wen agrees with him, adding: "If we're waiting until 60% to 80% of people have it, we're talking about 200 million-plus Americans getting this… and at a fatality rate of 1%, let's say, that's 2 million Americans who will die in this effort to try to get herd immunity.
"Those are preventable deaths of our loved ones that we can just not let happen under our watch."
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