Inhumane Herd Immunity

Herd Immunity

The White House confirmed that it is adopting the inhumane herd immunity strategy. Trump wrongly believes that if people get infected and survive, they will be immune and society will reach “herd immunity.”  Herd immunity is also known as the “let people die” strategy. The strategy involves deliberately letting the novel coronavirus spread through the population.

What about people with pre-existing conditions? Well, Trump thinks he can separate and isolate the most vulnerable. But the CDC estimates that over 40% of Americans are at increased risk of infection due to pre-existing medical conditions. How is he going to separate and isolate 40% of us?

Letting the virus spread in younger adults inevitably leads to deaths in older people. Herd immunity will lead to more death. Herd immunity would cause between 1 million to 2.5 million dead Americans. That is inhumane. Also, research shows that 10% of people develop a long-term illness, called long-COVID. This may permanently affect the lungs, heart, brain or joints. This may be highly debilitating.

Scientists, experts, and people with common sense know herd immunity will not work. Allowing people to get sick and die is inhumane, stupid, and typical of Trump’s decision-making skills. Trump relies on Dr. Atlas and a discredited statement titled the Great Barrington Declaration. Senior Trump administration officials told the New York Times that the White House is endorsing the declaration.

The declaration, says Gregg Gonsalves, an epidemiologist at Yale University, has “shocked and dismayed the vast majority of people working in public health and clinical medicine.”

Stupid and Unethical

From a public health and ethical viewpoint, herd immunity is deeply flawed. No pandemic has ever been controlled by deliberately letting the infection spread unchecked.

Scientists estimate that a large fraction of the population, 50% or more, would need to be immune to reach herd immunity against COVID-19. A study from Stanford University suggests that only about 9% of the U.S. population has antibodies to the new coronavirus.  Around 156 million more Americans would need to get infected to reach the 50% threshold for herd immunity from natural infection. We lost at least 225,000 people with 8 million cases. Millions would die if Americans suffer another 156 million cases.

We must protect people from COVID-19. Immunity may also be temporary. We don’ t know. The risk is too great. We should not let them get infected. We need to develop vaccines and therapeutics to alleviate the suffering.

America’s Covid-19 mortality rate is 60.3 per 100,000 people. Canada’s rate is 24.6 per 100,000. Australia’s was 3.3 deaths per 100,000. If we had had the same rate as Canada, we would have lost 117,000 fewer people. 188,000 Americans would be alive if we had the same death rate as Australia.