Remember herd immunity, the early aspirational goal of our COVID strategy? It has arrived, at least according to some recent findings of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports (MMWR).
On Episode 4 of the ACSH Science Dispatch Podcast, we examine the need for COVID boosters and the increasingly irrelevant concept of herd immunity. We then dive into an incendiary discussion about the social-justice-inspired effort to deny the dangers of obesity. Finally, is there a "cancel culture" in science?
If we've learned anything about Covid it's that when we think we start to understand it the virus changes behavior, as if to spitefully prove us wrong. It's happening again. Now there are Omicron subvariants that can infect people who have not only had Covid but were infected with a slightly different Omicron variant. This pretty much buries the idea of herd immunity – something we were chasing early in the pandemic.
Dr. Fauci, along with two of his colleagues, writes in a journal on the concept of herd immunity and COVID-19. Buckle up; it will be a bumpy ride, at least in the media.
“Scientists initially estimated that 60 to 70 percent of the population needed to acquire resistance to the coronavirus to banish it. Now Dr. Anthony Fauci and others are quietly shifting that number upward.” NY Times December 2020 “Reaching ‘Herd Immunity’ Is Unlikely in the US, Experts Now Believe” NY Times July 2021 Is this poor communication, flip-flop, or evidence of conspiracy?
Those are the words of Pliny the Elder (except for the COVID part). Coincidentally, he died while trying to save friends during the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. As it turns out, today's home is also where COVID-19 comes to visit, brought in by household members.
The CDC's estimate of 83 million infections is really quite stunning, yet few if any people are talking about this. That's a real shame. It's vital that we learn not to repeat the same mistakes, including the social and economic ones, not just the epidemiological ones.
Vaccinations are finally here but it could be well into 2021 until we reach herd immunity. What to do in the meantime? Dr. Henry Miller argues that this is precisely the right time to try to "flatten the curve" again. Miller also argues that doing so is essential to economical health, not contrary to it.
Herd immunity as a way to fight COVID-19 is a hot topic these days -- but for all the wrong reasons. In an opinion column published in the Baltimore Sun, Dr. Katherine Seley-Radtke, and ACSH's Dr. Josh Bloom argue that it's dangerous and simply won't work.
Americans -- so desperate to end the need for masks, social distancing, and limited access to restaurants, salons, concerts, and schools -- will surely be clamoring for a vaccine as soon as it’s available. Or will they? Recent polls suggest that only about 40% of Americans would take the vaccine. It is vital that this number be increased. But how? Let's explore this issue.
I've been thinking about herd immunity in the last few weeks and took a moment to look at the concept's historical roots. As is more often the case than I would like, my understanding needed refreshing and refashioning.