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Frequently Asked Questions About Herd Immunity

Frequently Asked Questions About Herd Immunity

With the arrival of more vaccines, health experts hope to reach herd immunity against COVID-19 sooner rather than later. But what exactly is herd immunity, and how can it help beat this pandemic for good? Find out here.

What is herd immunity?

Herd immunity or community immunity happens when a significant portion of the population (the herd) is immune against the infection.

How can the population become immune to a disease?

Basically, the community becomes immune in two ways: (1) recovering from the disease and (2) getting the vaccine, both of which provide antibodies against the infection.

The antibodies then stop you from getting sick, or they prevent severe symptoms.

herd immunity covid-19

How many people should be immune to reach herd immunity?

The number of immune people varies depending on the disease and location, but generally, it involves a high percentage of the population, from 50% to 90%.

To put things into perspective, think about measles. One infected person can spread the disease to up to 18 people. Since it’s highly contagious, herd immunity can be achieved only after about 95% of the community becomes immune.

Why is it vital for us to reach herd immunity?

With herd immunity, the disease no longer has the upper hand.

To illustrate, imagine a community where no one is immune to the disease. This means everyone who comes in contact with an infected person will get sick and spread the infection to others.

There’s no buffer.

Now, what if 70% of the community is already immune to the infection? That means 7 out of 10 people who encounter an infected person will not get sick and perhaps won’t spread the disease to others. Fewer infections also indicate a lower chance of mutation.

Essentially, immune people act as “shields” for those who don’t have the immunity yet.

Herd immunity is especially crucial for people who:

  • Cannot get the vaccine
  • Never had the disease
  • Cannot gain immunity because of a weak immune system

Is herd immunity possible for COVID-19?

COVID-19 is still a new disease, so researchers still need to confirm a few things, like:

  • Reinfection: When a person recovers from COVID-19, for how long is he or she protected from it?
  • Frequency of vaccination: Are COVID-19 vaccines like flu shots, which we need to get annually?

Nevertheless, health experts are hopeful that herd immunity will end the pandemic.

Why is vaccination crucial for herd immunity?

Vaccination is crucial for herd immunity because it’s safer and more practical than recovering from the disease.

As of now, we understand that COVID-19 may lead to severe symptoms and death, especially to people who are of advanced age and those with co-morbidities. In other words, it’s too risky for them to get infected.

Besides, those who test positive with no or mild symptoms still need intervention. Either they isolate themselves at home and miss work or enter a quarantine facility. Both of these interventions require time and resources.

Vaccination takes only a few minutes and reduces the risk of severe infection.

What’s the status of reaching herd immunity in the Philippines?

Experts believe that to achieve herd immunity against COVID-19, at least 60% of the population must be immune.

In the Philippines, officials say vaccinating 50 to 70 million people is enough to reach community immunity.

As of this writing, 786,528 or 0.71% of the population have been fully vaccinated. More than 2,500,000 have received their first dose. On average, we vaccinate 108,000 people daily.

At this rate, experts think we’ll reach herd immunity in 3.5 years (November 2024).

Key Takeaways

Herd immunity occurs when a high percentage of the community is already immune to the disease. The immune population acts as a buffer between the illness and the unprotected people.

Vaccination is a crucial aspect of reaching herd immunity to COVID-19 because it’s safer, especially for people at risk of developing severe symptoms.

Learn more about Coronaviruses here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

What is herd immunity?
https://www.gavi.org/vaccineswork/what-herd-immunity
Accessed May 21, 2021

What is Herd Immunity and How Can We Achieve It With COVID-19?
https://www.jhsph.edu/covid-19/articles/achieving-herd-immunity-with-covid19.html
Accessed May 21, 2021

Herd immunity and COVID-19 (coronavirus): What you need to know
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/herd-immunity-and-coronavirus/art-20486808
Accessed May 21, 2021

Why is herd immunity so important?
https://www.aappublications.org/content/36/5/14.1
Accessed May 21, 2021

Herd immunity
https://apic.org/monthly_alerts/herd-immunity/
Accessed May 21, 2021

PH to achieve herd immunity by year-end – Galvez
https://pia.gov.ph/news/articles/1073976
Accessed May 21, 2021

What Is Herd Immunity?
https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/herd-immunity.html

Accessed May 21, 2021

Herd immunity, https://herdimmunity.ph/
Accessed May 21, 2021

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Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. Updated 3 weeks ago
Fact Checked by Hello Doctor Medical Panel
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