COVID-19 – Herd immunity approach to pandemic unethical: WHO

COVID-19 – Herd immunity approach to pandemic unethical: WHO
WHO’s Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated on Monday (October 12, 2020) that the principle of herd immunity to stem the COVID-19 pandemic is an unethical and immoral act, and cannot be used as an option for countries to defeat the virus. (screenshot from WHO/Indonesia Window)

Jakarta (Indonesia Window) – The World Health Organization (WHO) has underscored that the principle of herd immunity to stem the COVID-19 pandemic is an unethical and immoral act, and cannot be used as an option for countries to defeat the virus.

“Herd immunity is a concept used for vaccination, in which a population can be protected from certain viruses if the vaccination threshold is reached,” WHO’s Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated at a press conference in Geneva, Switzerland on Monday (Oct 12).

But, he continued, dealing with a pandemic should be done by protecting people from viruses, not by exposing them.

“Never in public health history has herd immunity been used as a strategy for responding to an outbreak,” Ghebreyesus said, calling the herd community ‘scientifically and ethically problematic’.

To gain herd immunity from measles, for example, about 95 percent of the population should be vaccinated.

However, according to WHO estimates, less than 10 percent of the global population has immunity to the coronavirus, leaving much of the world vulnerable.

“Letting the virus to circulate uncontrollably means allowing infection, suffering and unnecessary death,” Ghebreyesus said.

He 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, adding that 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 is not a choice between letting the virus run free and shutting down our societies” he stated

WHO noted that many have harnessed their stay-at-home time to develop plans, train health workers, increase testing time and capacity and improve patient care.

Meanwhile, digital technologies are helping to make tried-and-tested public health tools even more effective, such as better smartphone apps to support contact tracing efforts.

“We well understand the frustration that many people, communities, and governments are feeling as the pandemic drags on, and as cases rise again”, Ghebreyesus said.

However, there are no shortcuts, and no silver bullets, he added.

Only a comprehensive approach, using every tool in the toolbox, has proven effective.

“My message to every country that is now considering its options is, you can do it too,” the Director General of WHO said.

Reporting by Indonesia Window

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