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Herd immunity being used in the wrong context?

(17 Posts)
Magic2020 Sat 16-May-20 18:27:35

I think I'm going to be totally flamed for this, but from what I knew about herd immunity before Covid-19, it was a good thing, used as part of a sensible vaccination policy, to protect those people who couldn't get a vaccine from diseases that would otherwise kill them.

It seems to me that the meaning of herd immunity is changing (partly because of government policy) to something bad, that involves a lot of people getting a dangerous disease that they have no protection from, to reduce the risk for the people who are left.

But I'm sure that wasn't what it was supposed to be originally. AIBU?

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WineAndTiramisu Sat 16-May-20 18:31:26

Herd immunity has always meant the same thing, a large enough proportion of people immune to a disease to stop it spreading. Whether this occurs by vaccination or catching the disease is irrelevant to the end outcome.

Magic2020 Sat 16-May-20 18:33:10

@WineAndTiramisu - the context in which it's being talked about though is changing, don't you think?

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TheRoyallingStones Sat 16-May-20 18:34:27

Herd immunity from vaccines is a good thing, it protects the vulnerable with extremely minimal risk to the majority

Herd immunity coming from swathes of the population getting infected with an illness at the same time many of whom will need hospital care is a fucking terrible idea. The sort of thing only an imbecile prime minister could think was a good plan

We don’t even know how long immunity would last, millions would die in the pursuit of herd immunity including many of the vulnerable people we want to protect.

Herd immunity from vaccine and herd immunity from letting a virus run rampant through the population are hugely different concepts

Magic2020 Sat 16-May-20 18:40:26

To the 40% who have said I'm being unreasonable - can you tell me why?

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Magic2020 Sat 16-May-20 18:41:37

Do you think that herd immunity has the same reputation as before Covid-19?

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Magic2020 Sat 16-May-20 18:43:46

I work in microbiology so have known about it for around 30 years, but have never seen it so slated as it is now.

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Tardigrade001 Sat 16-May-20 18:50:53

I don't know if herd immunity can be achieved naturally, without a vaccine, whitin a short timeframe. Has that ever been done?

ZombieFan Sat 16-May-20 19:25:12

I think the words 'herd immunity' are being weaponized by the left to try and score political points against the government. Its pathetic.

PotholeParadise Sat 16-May-20 19:33:47

I am also feeling frustated, OP. The government are piggy-backing on the positive connotations of the phrase.

'Herd immunity' was used to describe vaccinating everyone who could be vaccinated in order to prevent the spread of any particular disease that could kill or disable some of the population. It did not mean a practice of allowing a disease to run rampant and kill the vulnerable and then congratulating the last people standing for achieving 'herd immunity'.

GCITC Sat 16-May-20 19:37:24

I don't have a problem with herd immunity. I wouldn't have a problem with exposing a virus to healthy people in order to provide herd immunity for the population.

The problem with Covid is that we don't know whether contracting Covid provides immunity to it, or if it does how long that immunity lasts for.

So we could be exposing people to the virus for no reason other than keeping the economy going. There's a debate to be had on whether that is morally acceptable or not.

Magic2020 Sat 16-May-20 22:26:54

@GCTIC - yes, definitely. I understand (I think) why this was done, but there definitely will need to be some questions as to why they decided on that strategy with so little information about the virus.

But I'm worried that people will use it to spread fear and misinformation about vaccines used in herd immunity, when they're not the same thing at all.

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Magic2020 Sat 16-May-20 22:28:08

@PotholeParadise yes, that's how I feel!

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EloiseTheFirst Sat 16-May-20 22:44:27

Obtaining herd immunity through vaccination is one thing.

Obtaining it by allowing the majority of the population to contract the real disease is a dangerous game - as Bo Jo himself found out when he ended up in intensive care with it.

YounghillKang Sat 16-May-20 22:59:13

So, we could be exposing people to the virus for no reason other than keeping the economy going. There's a debate to be had on whether that is morally acceptable or not

Also, it would be good to have more developed discussions of the economy, it’s interesting that the government are obsessed with WW2 metaphors but not with how the economy was then brought back to a healthy state. Reading this earlier made me wonder about that:

‘*During the second world war, war effort accounted for over 50% of net national expenditure and a quarter of the labour force was in the armed forces. This situation – where the government employed* almost half the workforce – was sustained over more than five years. Despite US help via the lend lease policy, the UK had the highest public debt/GDP ratio in its history. But that did not lead to recession and unemployment, thanks to the post-war Labour *government rejecting policies fixating on debt in favour of Keynesian full employment targeting. The result was growth instead of recession and unemployment.*’
www.theguardian.com/business/2020/may/13/lets-keep-the-economic-impact-of-coronavirus-in-perspective

Have read a number of articles that suggest allowing the virus to spread faster, or further, could have a greater impact on economic recovery, large numbers off sick, unpredictable spread impacting on industries without warning and so on….

I’ve noticed that posters on MN who favour the dubious ‘herd immunity equals let the virus spread’ model, are also fond of promoting the narrative that most people may be sick for a couple of days and that’s it. They seem keen to ignore the fact that a significant proportion of people need hospital treatment, even for so-called ‘mild’ versions of the infection, and that the NHS would not be able to treat these people if numbers of infected rose across the country. This would surely up the death rates? Even people not hospitalised may get this variation, which it seems is currently affecting one in 20 of those infected, how might that impact on the economy I wonder?:

'Weird as hell’: the Covid-19 patients who have symptoms for months
Researchers keen to work out why some people are suffering from ‘long tail’ form of the virus
www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/15/weird-hell-professor-advent-calendar-covid-19-symptoms-paul-garner

xtinak Sat 16-May-20 23:07:14

Herd immunity isn't an all or nothing thing I think. My understanding is that some level of immunity in combination with social distancing can together contribute to an R that is lower than one which would cause the virus to fizzle out.

On the mathematical flipside of that, the herd immunity threshold that would stop the virus or slow it down is contingent on a few factors some of which are variable: the nature of transmission (which is inherent to the virus), how susceptible people are to the virus and how people interact with one another. So it's not simple to calculate. Estimates for coronavirus seem to range from 10% to 70%.

Also the threshold would be different depending on whether it were achieved by vaccine or by exposure, because of the way that the virus would tend to target the susceptible if this happened via exposure.

There's a lot more to it than I originally realised anyway. My understanding is basic though so feel free to correct me!

It looks like covid does usually confer some immunity and there is even evidence for cross immunity with other coronavirus, but the length of immunity is unknown and so are other effects of the disease. So obviously it is to be approached with caution.

SnackSizeRaisin Sat 16-May-20 23:09:23

Yes I agree OP. Clearly a useful level of herd Immunity that stops further infections occurring can only come about through vaccination. Natural infection doesn't work like that at all - people have to keep getting infected all the time otherwise the population becomes susceptible again over time. That is why diseases like measles need a vaccination. If herd immunity worked from natural infection, they would disappear on their own. The only relevance of so called herd immunity resulting from natural infection is that once the initial catastrophic pandemic has passed, the rate of infection will be much lower (possibly avoiding overwhelming the NHS - although it is overwhelmed by every flu season so I don't really agree with that argument) but that is absolutely no use to those who catch the disease, as most will at some point in life.

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