– By Gaurav Jain
Achieve Herd Immunity Opines AIIMS Professors
The COVID-19 Pandemic has shaken the world to its very core. Certain norms have been instrumental in protecting oneself from the virus- physical distancing, staying at home, sanitizing from time-to-time, using an N95 mask when heading out, Etc. At the same time, countries worldwide are trying to find a vaccine or a solution that can help us return to a standard, pre-COVID world. While research and testing are in full swing, scientists worldwide are also open to experimenting with others that might help the public become immune.
Amid this discussion and deliberation, the concept of ‘herd immunity’ arose. A form of indirect protection from infectious diseases like COVID-19, the phenomenon of ‘herd immunity,’ ensures that a large percentage of the population becomes immune to the infection, either through vaccination or previous diseases, was conveyed to Prittle Prattle News through a press release.
Now that schools and colleges have diverted to virtual learning, in-person classes seem somewhat distant. However, in-spite of us finding an alternative, for the time being, online courses in the long term are not feasible for all. Online classes are especially a problem for those middle-class families with multiple children in school or those belonging to economically-weaker sections of society. While online courses have their advantages and disadvantages, scientists and researchers have located a new plus-point to reopening schools and colleges eventually, once the cases get out of control.
Dr. Amitav Banerjee, Professor & Head Community Medicine, Dr. DY Patil Medical College, Pune, commented, “If we choose to open schools and colleges once the curve stabilizes, there are last chances will be able to achieve herd immunity. Children & young adults have fresh immunity, which makes them better prepared to fight infections. It has a multiplier effect- if we develop it, we can protect many people. If we study USA data, 24 districts in the USA and not a single child fatality.” “The mean age & BMI has been an important factor in the number of deaths. A recent CDC update mentions that obesity is a major risk factor for fatality from the Covid-19 virus. Japan never had a lockdown & despite having higher mean age, there were very few fatalities, which reconfirm CDC findings”, Dr. Banerjee added.
However simple it may sound, achieving herd mentality is quite complex in terms of achievement. Explaining how exactly herd immunity is performing, Dr. Sanjay K. Rai, Professor, Centre of Community Medicine, AIIMS New Delhi, elaborated, “there are two basic ways of achieving herd immunity developing a vaccine and by exposure to infection. Since there is no possible way of knowing when we can find a vaccine and how effective it will be, the only other alternative is infection.”
The opening of schools and colleges, at present, seems like a bizarre idea that will only put the future of the country at risk. However, in this dark situation, Dr. Rai finds a silver lining, “If schools and colleges go back to functioning in full swing, keeping in mind distancing and sanitization norms, there is a possibility that sooner or later, everyone will get exposed. Children have fresh immunity, and they can be major contributors to us achieving herd immunity. The process is quite complex, though- careful interpretation and increase in testing are vital for success.”
Dr. Chandrakant S Pandav, Former HoD, Center of Community Medicine, said to Prittle Prattle News through a press release, “Lockdown may not be the ultimate solution to fight COVID 19. It may delay the infection but cannot protect us forever. There are multiple diseases, vaccines for which remain elusive & if that happens with COVID 19, herd immunity is our only solution to end the pandemic.”
Dr. Swadeep Srivastava, Founder, Heal Foundation, said, “The experts have presented a new perspective about immunity at large. The limited activity & exposure to sunlight harm the immunity of a person. Schools have moved to online classes. Most corporates have accepted the work from home culture, the changes, which were supposed to save people from COVID, maybe making them vulnerable to infections due to decreasing immunity. With no certainty around vaccines, herd immunity seems to be the only option & opening schools & colleges can be a rational call.”