Herd Immunity to Treat Coronavirus Is an Unethical Approach: WHO Chief

WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Photo: WHO
WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Photo: WHO

Herd immunity is a concept used for vaccination, in which a population can be protected from a certain virus if a threshold of vaccination is reached.

Using the principle of so-called herd immunity to stem the COVID-19 pandemic is unethical and not an option that countries should pursue to defeat the virus, said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Herd immunity is a concept used for vaccination, in which a population can be protected from a certain virus if a threshold of vaccination is reached. The WHO chief explained on Monday (October 12) that it is achieved by protecting people from the virus, not by exposing them to it.

“Never in the history of public health has herd immunity been used as a strategy for responding to an outbreak,” the WHO chief said, calling it scientifically and ethically problematic.

To obtain herd immunity from measles, for example, about 95 per cent of the population must be vaccinated. However, according to WHO estimates, less than 10 per cent of the global population has any immunity to the coronavirus, leaving the vast majority of the world susceptible.

“Letting the virus circulate unchecked, therefore, means allowing unnecessary infections, suffering and death,” Tedros said, adding that in recent days, the world was seeing the most rapid rise in Covid-19 infections during the course of the whole pandemic, especially in Europe and the Americas.

“We understand the frustration that many people, communities and Governments are feeling as the pandemic drags on, and as cases rise again,” Tedros said. “However, there are no shortcuts, and no silver bullets.”

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