Sometime ago, the mainstream media accused Dr. Scott Atlas of pushing a strategy called herd immunity, which involves letting COVID-19 naturally propagate throughout the general population, while protecting the vulnerable at the same time. After a not too long period (about a few months), enough people will build up immunity to the disease, resulting in the disease no longer being able to propagate through society. The above will effectively kill the disease. After that point, the vulnerable will be able to re-emerge into society, and be at a very low risk from being infected by the coronavirus. (Note: herd immunity refers to the propagation of a disease throughout a population, via either widespread infection, or widespread vaccination, or a combination of both. Some experts believe herd immunity can be achieved, when as little as 43% of the population is infected/vaccinated with COVID-19.)
I think the above is a brilliant strategy, which should be broadly adopted. (Mind you, Dr. Atlas denied making the suggestion.) As usual however, the Left descended on the idea with scorn and ridicule – as it does with every solution that promises to end the pandemic quickly, allow Americans to return to happiness and normalcy, and provide an effective alternative to using vaccines (with all their issues).
For example, this NPR article derided the idea, and took several pot shots at Dr. Atlas. The following is an excerpt from the article:
‘In April on the conservative Steve Deace Show, Atlas spoke in favor of allowing the virus to pass through the younger segments of the population, while trying to protect older Americans.
"We can allow a lot of people to get infected," he said. "Those who are not at risk to die or have a serious hospital-requiring illness, we should be fine with letting them get infected, generating immunity on their own, and the more immunity in the community, the better we can eradicate the threat of the virus."’
The above comment is disingenuous. COVID-19 is a strain of the common cold, with which just about every human being has been infected several times throughout his / her life. The non-vulnerable population becoming infected with the common cold one more time would not be novel, and is not going to adversely affect the population if it happens once again. In fact, CDC data show that only about 10,000 non-vulnerable adults have died from COVID-19. Also, if you do not belong to the vulnerable population, you are twice as likely to die from a motor vehicle accident, than you are to die from COVID-19.
The following is another excerpt from the NPR article:
‘It is true that building up immunity can limit or even stop the spread of a virus like COVID-19, says Chris Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.
But in the past, that strategy has only worked through vaccination. The idea that you somehow could allow the virus to spread through healthy populations without also putting older and sicker Americans at risk is naive, he says.
"It's very difficult to protect vulnerable populations once the virus is transmitting extensively," he says. "We haven't seen any success of that."’
The above statement is false. Note the following excerpt from this WebMD article:
‘How Do You Achieve Herd Immunity?
There are two ways this can happen.
You can develop resistance naturally. When your body is exposed to a virus or bacteria, it makes antibodies to fight off the infection. When you recover, your body keeps these antibodies. Your body will defend against another infection. This is what stopped the Zika virus outbreak in Brazil. Two years after the outbreak began, 63% of the population had had exposure to the virus. Researchers think the community reached the right level for herd immunity.
Vaccines can also build resistance. They make your body think a virus or bacteria has infected it. You don’t get sick, but your immune system still makes protective antibodies. The next time your body meets that bacteria or virus, it’s ready to fight it off. This is what stopped polio in the United States.’
The above WebMD article indicates that herd immunity can be achieved via widespread infection or vaccines. In fact, the article indicates that the spread of the Zika virus in Brazil, was stopped via achieving herd immunity, through widespread infection.
In addition to above, the following is an excerpt from this article:
‘Sweden's chief epidemiologist now believes his country has achieved herd immunity, and it has done so with relatively few excess deaths, as compared to other years.’
Now the excerpt above from the NPR article suggests that you cannot protect the vulnerable population from COVID-19, if you allow it to spread throughout the general population. Has this person ever heard of quarantine procedures? Weren’t quarantine procedures protecting the elderly in nursing homes seen to work in Florida and other red (Republican) states? Isn’t the prevailing thought now that masks, social distancing, wearing gloves, etc. are effective at significantly reducing a person’s risk of contracting COVID-19?
Having a policy therefore of allowing the current strain of the common cold (COVID-19) to propagate throughout the healthy / non-vulnerable population, to quickly achieve herd immunity, which would allow American society to rapidly return to normal, has precedent, and has successfully worked in places throughout the world such as Sweden. In the meantime, the most vulnerable (e.g. the elderly) can be quarantined, and other vulnerable individuals can be protected by wearing masks, gloves, and adhering to other safety protocols, until we achieve herd immunity.
The above article addressed most of the salient points made in the NPR article referenced above. I will be addressing the rest of the points made in the NPR article in another post.