Larry Brilliant, the scientist who helped WHO eradicate smallpox from the world, believes that COVID-19 is not easy to eradicate. In one of his recent interviews, he explains a few factors. Such factors make it hard to eradicate COVID-19. The first factor is a virus with the ability to infect multiple species, including humans and animals. According to Larry, viruses with such potential consist of various variants. Consequently, it is most likely that such a virus will reinfect the human population.
Furthermore, he explains that the denominator is constantly changing in both cases. Most likely, people are exposed to the disease repeatedly. Therefore, Larry wishes to reach herd immunity for COVID-19. Although a person is exposed to the virus once or even gets a vaccine for the virus, the person gets affected again. This only happens when a person is exposed to a new variant of the virus. Hence, the concept of herd immunity no longer applies to this virus.
As the COVID-19 virus can infect both animals and humans, 12 different species are at risk of infection. For instance, if humans contract a virus from one of such species, it is impossible to eradicate the disease. The best example is as seen in yellow fever, which is hard to eradicate. Monkeys acquire yellow fever, and vaccination of monkeys is not possible.
Concept of herd immunity
Since the beginning of the COVID-19, all the medical experts and public health experts express the need for herd immunity. These experts believe that doing this is going to prevent the spread of the virus. According to the experts, there is a need to vaccinate almost 60% to 90% of the U.S population. By doing so, the U.S is going to cut down the spread of the virus. Unfortunately, according to the current statistics, around 35% of the U.S population is fully vaccinated. However, the Center for Disease and Control (CDC) gives a green signal to people who get full vaccination to cut loose their masks.
Herd immunity means vaccinating a large population. Such type of immunity occurs when enough people are immune to put an end to transmission. Therefore, the main purpose is to disrupt person-to-person transmission, which is only possible when a certain number of inhabitants get the vaccine.
Although there are two methods to get immunity, one is to recover from prior infection or get the vaccination. Herd immunity concepts exist worldwide, as seen in the case of Smallpox. At the same time, it is based on the country or region as well. The best example of herd immunity for a country and region is measles and polio. Although the world still needs to achieve herd immunity for measles and polio.
The success rate of herd immunity for other infections
So far, scientists are only successful in eradicating smallpox from the world. Smallpox was eradicated in the 1980s. So, this process was only possible with the help of a herd immunity program.
At present, the world is trying to eradicate poliovirus through the global herd immunity method. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative began working in 1988; at that time, 125 countries faced endemic polio, and 300,000 children were infected with the virus annually. As of today, after a long struggle and lots of efforts, only two countries remain on the list. Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two countries facing the wild poliovirus. Whereas in this year, only two cases appear due to wild polio. Therefore, it is possible to achieve herd immunity throughout the world with extraordinary efforts.
Herd Immunity goals keep changing
As mentioned earlier, according to the experts, there is a need to vaccinate almost 60% to 90% of the U.S population. So naturally, to make herd immunity work, many factors play a key role.
The factors include how well the vaccine is working, and prior infection prevents illness from happening again. Additional ideas include the proposed spread of new SARS-CoV-2 variants and transmission interventions through face masks and social distancing. Other notable variables include incomprehensibility after admission or illness and natural factors such as population size and heterogeneity within most people’s immunity.
The barrier to herd immunity
The major barrier in herd immunity is that not every adult can receive the vaccine. The reason behind that is vaccine hesitancy among people and children. FDA, on May 10, 2021, announced that the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is safe and necessary. Therefore, they allow adults and children from 12 to 15 years of age to get their vaccines. However, an additional obstacle is the constant pressure factor of a renewed introduction of the disease. The reason behind that is that various nations do not have access to vaccination.
Making herd immunity reach the point of completely preventing new diseases, as a result, is a noble, achievable goal. Therefore, thoughts of COVID-19 from now on are considered a systematic global effort to eradicate over the years, such as the extinction of Smallpox.
Several reasons indicate people can become vaccine-hesitant. Although, a few of them include a lack of confidence in the vaccine and the burden of getting a vaccine. Moreover, the people believe that if they receive the COVID-19 vaccine, that might not work for them.
Uncertainty includes vaccination safety concerns or skepticism about medical care providers and welfare authorities who guide them. In contrast, some people think that vaccination is not one of their priorities. The reason behind this is that they believe the disease is just not that serious. Whereas, another factor is accommodation problems include accessibility and difficulty, for example, getting two doses.
Herd immunity is not easy to achieve
In any case, by 2022 and for almost a long time, there is no expectation that we will reach herd immunity to COVID-19. However, it can reduce the number of cases.
Although, some abnormalities in Covid’s contamination might occur. That means the number of cases reduces during the year and increases in the cold season. In the same way, we see episodes in parts of the population and individuals that require adequate protection. Moreover, extreme closure of urban or local communities, new and widespread diversity are the factors affecting the drive of the COVID-19 vaccine. Research is still an ongoing process to find the best way to eradicate it.
Our future selves
People need to understand the new normal. The normal in which they must live with the virus. For instance, people need to accept and adapt to new procedures. Like carrying a small yellow card at the airport indicating they are immunized against the COVID-19. Whereas sports stadiums, schools, and restaurants are equipped with inexpensive and quick testing facilities.
As Dr. Larry Brilliant said in one of the interviews, the world will fight the virus for the next few years. He mentioned the ability of the virus to move from nation to nation with the ability to mutate. Brilliant also states in his interview that in case 10% of the U.S population caught the virus. But, then, there is a long way ahead to reach herd immunity.
Although with the help of effective vaccination programs and treatments, people can recover soon. Treatments like utilizing monoclonal antibodies and convalescent plasma are quite helpful. However, it is going to take years to eradicate the virus. Same as Smallpox and polio eradication drive. Moreover, the COVID-19 virus is like yellow fever; it exists in some countries but not others.
The immediate challenges are children returning to school, flu season, and people returning to their jobs. In addition, at present times, there is a sense of fear among organizations and people. The places which might cause more damage are gyms, bus riders, locker rooms, indoor swimming pools, and theaters.
The possible solution to live with the virus is to take precautionary measures. Along with effective vaccines with the annual boosters halt the virus growth. The main purpose of such massive efforts is to prevent transmission and damage caused to infrastructure and the way people live.
In the end, the only thing that matters is saving lives. Even though the herd immunity program is not that effective to completely eradicate the COVID-19 disease, this is a big step towards prevention. Besides the vaccination, there is a need to let people know different ways to protect them. The possible way to do so is to launch a massive awareness drive about COVID-19 with some visual effects.
Currently, the herd immunity initiative is working well for a few countries. Although after the variation shown by the virus. However, precautionary measures still need attention to make sure to minimize the virus transfer. These measures include proper vaccination and proper examination. Thus, researchers still need to find a permanent solution to eradicate the COVID-19 virus. To eradicate the COVID-19 virus will take many years with extensive experimentation to find a cure. People need to know the importance of vaccination and make sure they follow the rules to be safe.