COVID-19: Unraveling the herd immunity puzzle
By Edema Tosan
What is Herd Immunity? And why has it become more prevalent in the media since the emergence of the invisible bogeyman, Mr. Covid-19? Is herd immunity a newly coined word and why are some scientific authorities floating the idea that one of the keys to fighting covid-19 is herd immunity?
Medications are designed to address specific diseases with that intent in mind, (medications can also have non-specific and unintended benefits), fighting pathogens like bacteria, parasites e.t.c, or correcting diseases’ symptoms deficiency. Viral infections on the other hand have no legitimate medicine that is 100% designed to kill the viruses.
Indeed, some basic facts about viruses include the fact that viruses are non-living organisms that have no life except when they reside inside a living host like humans, other animals or plants. A virus outside its host is therefore as good as dead until it encounters other living elements outside the host like non-denatured blood, water-like components like aerosol, droplets and mucus. Viruses can only replicates/make babies inside a living host or outside the living host in the non-denatured environment.
There are no effective medicines for the Corona flu family or indeed for most viral infections. When you have a viral infection, eight out of ten times your physician will prescribe you take some time off work, get some rest, stay hydrated, stay indoors and treat arising complications (relief) like joint pain, headaches, fever and cough. Antibiotics don’t do jack to viruses because viruses have no cell walls (protective walls). Most antibiotics and anti-pathogen medications are designed to attack and destroy these cell walls (protective walls) from outside in. Simply put a bacterial or some other pathogens without cell walls are as good as dead-exposed and naked. Viruses on the other hand can only replicate by getting inside the nucleus (control center) of our cells. Once inside the nucleus, these viruses become activated, come alive and start to make copies with our own nucleus, nucleotide or nucleolus materials (DNA and RNA); of itself like a copy machine making original duplicates with intent to create havoc in the host’s body for their survival. Every living thing needs energy (food) to survive.
Tamiflu is designed to catalytically decrease flu or viral infection duration. In other words, Tamiflu shortens flu or viral infection stages by 1-2days from its original course, in return you get relief and start to feel better till the next flu attack. It doesn’t cure or kill the virus like an antibiotic does to infecting bacteria. Theraflu on the other hand; only relieves flu or viral complications symptoms like congestion, sore throat and sneezing. You can consider Theraflu as a super cold or cough medicine. It is also fair to compare Theraflu, to Vicodin/Norco and tylenol/acetaminophen. Ninety-nine percent of antiviral medications don’t and cannot destroy the infectious viral pathogen. Antiviral medications only inhibit the viral replication/multiplication; and examples of antiviral medicines are Valacyclovir, Valtrex and Acyclovir.
Vaccines are biological preparations purposely introduced into our body to provide active acquired immunity to specific infectious contagions/diseases. Vaccines contain weakened non-replicating components of specific infectious contagions/diseases designed to bolster our body natural immunity against that specific contagion/disease. Vaccines are designed to be efficient in tackling that specific infectious contagion or disease when exposure arises/occurs. In a nutshell, vaccines are designed to prevent infection not to treat/cure like antibiotics. Like the saying goes, the rule of vaccination is, “prevention is better than cure”. Vaccines don’t fight or cure viruses; they only dent viral complications and their replication by bolstering our immune system.
Let’s get back on track with the subject matter, “Herd immunity”. Herd immunity is a form of community natural direct/indirect protection from a specific infectious contagion (mostly viruses). It occurs when large amount of population are exposed to that specific infectious contagion strand whether through vaccination or being exposed directly. In another words, the herd immunity idea is when a larger percentage of the population are exposed to a contagious infection and recover enough to negate further spread of the said contagion because the majority of the population who survive the infection onslaught have acquired immunity to that specific infectious contagion to protect the rest of the population (infected or uninfected). The overall idea of herd immunity is that the specific infectious contagion’s replication/proliferation capacity depreciates significantly since most of the community and population have already encountered and survived the infection in the same infectious cycle.
In mathematical terms, let’s assume the infectious contagion (virus) has infected close to 50-75% (1/2 to 3/4 of a community population) in the same season. Those who survive the infection gain some immunity going forward to that specific infectious contagion strand. The infectious contagion (virus) cannot replicate/proliferate in those who survive the first wave in the community, and can only replicate/proliferate in the remaining uninfected 25-50% (1/4 to 1/2) of the population in the same infectious cycle. Subsequently, if the virus is still active in the next 1-3 seasons, with or without vaccination, the number of infectious contagion proliferation/replication decreases further.
The percentage of people acquiring some herd immunity increases from the original 50-75% at the end of the second to third seasons towards 100% of the overall population. The overall population after being infected and gaining some level of herd immunity leaves the virus proliferation level below ten percent or less of the population. The simple rationale is the other ninety percent that was already exposed cannot get re-infected again and again. Most of the ninety percent that was already exposed have a better chance of survival because of herd immunity protection, all things being equal. More exposure cycles only diminish the viral load replication/proliferation capabilities until near 100% herd immunity is attainable by the entire population.
Scientifically, let’s also assume that 2/3 people have been infected and survived. The protection to the overall population can be 3/4, 4/5, 6/8. Likewise if 2/3 are infected and survive, then only 1/3 or 2/5 can be exposed going forward in the same cycle. The above number tends to decrease when more people are exposed and survive the infectious contagion because more people will gain some herd immunity to that specific infectious contagion strand. The number of people that gain herd immunity always grows more from one infectious contagion season to another if the virus is still virulent or active.
Now let’s expand the above, what does herd immunity mean to the world population overall. If we don’t get an effective vaccine as a catalyst to mitigate Covid-19; then close to six billion out of over eight billions of the current world population will need to be exposed and survive Covid within 1-3 exposure infection seasons for herd immunity to gain traction to expand protection to majority of the world protection by the next 2-3 Covid-19 seasons. Relatively, this also means more people will die from Covid. Best case projection this season is that Covid mortality is going to be somewhere between quarter of a million to half a million deaths worldwide. If we did things properly, that number was projected to be less than half of the actual data. For more than seven billion people in the world to attain herd immunity in the next 3-5 seasons, all things Covid-19 related must be accounted for. The caveat of course is that people with co-morbidities, bad habits, misinformation, misdirection, inadequate PPEs, ignorance and arrogance, do compound the overall outcome.
All the above about covid-19 is simply a summation based on the premise that the Covid-19 virus was probably introduced into our lives from the beginning of 2019 flu season. This Covid-19 viral bug so far has been acting like a Smartphone. This Covid-19 viral bug has been gathering data on us and knows our chink in the armor-stupidity, and then unleashes its chaos. This covid-19 viral bug has also been revving or gathering speed and entrenching it’s devastation to our society before and around January 2020. Like most other corona family characteristics patterns, it might take the next 2-4 seasons of forecast infection exposure for us to naturally gain ninety percent plus herd immunity.
While most Corona family members (common cold, flu, SARS, MERS) take 1-2 seasons exposure to gain worldwide enhanced herd immunity along with vaccination interventions, the Covid-19 viral bug is much smarter and seems to have a resilient adaptive capability; hence some people are getting infected 1-3 times in the same season. The only way we can prove this bug came around the 2019 flu season is by doing autopsy of suspected pneumonia related death in that particular season if we have a competent governments that believes in the science given to us by God. An autopsy in California confirms that a few of the deaths that occurred in October to November of 2019 are Covid related. Autopsy in Italy and France even went further and confirmed that some suspicious pneumonia-like deaths recorded around the summer of 2019 were also Covid related.
If we believe the daily-weekly meteorological forecast is 85-95% accurate; then we should believe in the same science like meteorology that has successfully provided us flu vaccine technology year in and year out since the emergence of influenza. That same science has successfully anticipated and forecasted which of the corona family members is bringing chaos every season to human population. There isn’t a doubt that flu vaccines are effective for the majority of the population. Yes, twice in the last decade people had to retake the flu vaccine again within the same flu season because the forecasted virus-produced vaccines were ineffective; partly due to mutations and of course, human error. Science is never stagnant and bound to have certain amounts of roller-coaster drama, but its overall impact to humanity’s survival is near-absolute.
Recent studies now confirm that immunity starts to decline within 1-2months of recovery from either asymptomatic or symptomatic Covid-19 patients. Hence it might take 2-4 Covid seasons of exposure to achieve success that is greater than 75% herd immunity. In lay man’s terms, just like it is with the flu season, we are not going to achieve herd immunity in the next 2-4 Covid-flu seasons’ exposure regardless of vaccine effectiveness. At the end of the day, it will take a combination of vaccines, herd immunity and other therapeutics to celebrate Covid-19’s successful control. Covid-19’s control victory is thus to be defined like the flu outcome in flu season. That means we will never cure or eliminate Covid-19; just like we still don’t have a cure for flu. Covid-19 is going to be our new next door neighbor that irritates us like flu during flu seasons and we have to co-exist with it because if the new neighbour’s (Covid-19) house value falls, then our overall neighbourhood home value also depreciates. It is as simple as that.