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WHO Warns Against 'Herd Immunity' Strategy To Fight COVID-19

tedrosadhanom oct13 lt

The World Health Organization has warned that using the principle of so-called "herd immunity" to control the coronavirus pandemic is unethical and not a strategy that Governments should pursue.

Herd immunity is attained when enough people in a community are infected or vaccinated after which a pathogen stops circulating.

Top health experts have warned against that method, saying that it would cost more lives.

Allowing coronavirus to spread naturally in the absence of a vaccine is a "scientifically and ethically problematic" approach, according to WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus.

"Never in the history of public health has herd immunity been used as a strategy for responding to an outbreak", the WHO chief said at a regular press briefing in Geneva.

"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". But, it is achieved by protecting people from the virus, "not by exposing them to it", Ghebreyesus told reporters.

He cited the example of measles. To obtain herd immunity from the disease, about 95 per cent of a 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.

Tedros noted that in recent days, the world was seeing the most rapid rise in infections during the course of the whole pandemic, especially in Europe and the Americas.

"Each of the last four days has been the highest number of cases reported so far", he stated. "Many cities and countries are also reporting an increase in hospitalizations and intensive care bed occupancy".

The WHO chief also reminded that, as an "uneven pandemic", every country is responding differently, and stressed that outbreaks can be controlled using targeted measures, such as by preventing amplifying events, isolation and testing.

"It's not a choice between letting the virus run free and shutting down our societies" he said.

While acknowledging the frustration that many people, communities and Governments are feeling as the pandemic drags on, and as cases rise again", Tedros insisted that there are "no shortcuts, and no silver bullets" to tackle it.

White House health adviser Scott Atlas had reportedly urged the Trump administration to try herd immunity.

President Donald Trump also is said to be in support of using that strategy.

With multiple vaccines at advanced trial stage, the pandemic has claimed the lives of more than million people and infected 37 million others across the world.

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