So how about this for a plan in the fight against coronavirus — allow controlled infection! Yep, that’s right! As strange as that may sound some pandemic research experts are saying not only is this a sound strategy, but its essentially what we’re doing right now anyways. And without a vaccine, allowing a controlled number of infected per population —may be are only hope.
Novel (new) coronavirus is currently spreading rapidly around our planet. This because it’s a brand new pathogen, something our bodies have never encountered before. Without any built up resistance in our immune system, the virus is free to run its course. Our bodies have encountered many viruses and germs in our lifetime, and in defense, now have developed antibodies to fight them. Not yet so with coronavirus!
So that leads us to the strategy of simply allowing the spread of this new virus to continue. Albeit in a controlled and segmented part of the population. The logic being, the more of us who become infected and eventually recover, the more of us will become immune to the virus. Once enough of us become immune, the spread of the virus becomes greatly reduced and much more controllable. This is called “Herd Immunity.”
David L Katz is president of True Health Initiative and the founding director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center. He is a board-certified specialist in Preventive Medicine/Public Health. Quotes in Italics.
Immunity occurs when our immune system has developed antibodies against a germ, either naturally or as a result of a vaccine, and is fully prepared should exposure recur. The immune system response is so robust that the invading germ is eradicated before symptomatic disease can develop.
The immune response also prevents transmission. If a germ can’t secure its hold on your body, your body no longer serves as a vector to send it forward to the next potential host. This is true even if that next person is not yet immune. When enough of us represent such “dead ends” for viral transmission, spread through the population is blunted, and eventually terminated. This is called herd immunity.
This to some degree, is what is happening now. Although the precautions of social distancing and self-isolation seem to indicate a goal to protect the entire population — people are still getting infected. And at quite an increasing rate. Thus, “Herd Immunity” is happening. Though not as controlled as per Dr. Kayz’s plan.
Yet since a vaccine is yet unavailable, the strategy for most countries continues to be to try and control the viruses spread. To Flatten the curve — meaning to control the number of infected at any one time. This to prevent an overbearing strain on our health care services and prevent risking their total collapse.
Also “flattening the curve” of the virus buys us valuable time. Time to develop a vaccine and/or time for our herd immunity to grow (for those who are infected to recover and become immune.) Once immune, we are not only now resistant to the virus, but are also no-longer carriers passing the virus on to others.
And because most infected cases in the general population are “mild” and do not require specific medical treatment, the strain on our health services (in theory) will not be overly effected. The small percentage of cases that do require such services are highly concentrated, generally among those aged 60 and older.
So while simultaneously protecting exposure of the virus to our elderly, and allowing controlled exposure to those of us with much less risk of serious complications — we may be able to eventually block the spread of the virus. Perhaps enough so, as to allow the re-emergence of our normal way of life, slowly and in stages.
Then when a vaccine is eventually developed — we can wipe coronavirus off the face of the Earth! Or so the theory goes. Because like all proposed new plans, there are some contentious issues with this one as well.
Trying to create herd immunity among those most likely to recover from infection while also isolating the young and the old is daunting, to say the least. How does one allow exposure and immunity to develop in parents, without exposing their young children or elderly family members?
We must first shelter the elderly, people with chronic diseases and the immunologically compromised for whom coronavirus is most dangerous. We could potentially establish subgroups of health professionals, tested to be negative for coronavirus, to tend preferentially to those at highest risk.
This way, Katz said, “the most vulnerable are carefully shielded until the infection has run its course through the rest of us — and the tiny fraction of those of us at low risk who do develop severe infection nonetheless get expert medical care from a system not overwhelmed.
Still? Does this seem realistic? What do we do, send everyone over 50 to seniors camp? Lock away our elderly from society? Until? — A vaccine is developed? Enough of us become immune? And How long will this take — Months? — A Year? — More?
The social, economic, and public health consequences of this upheaval of normal life will most likely be long lasting. The end result perhaps even graver than the direct toll of the virus itself. With each day, as time rolls on, the world’s economic stability increasingly starts to fall apart. Governments are doing their best to help by infusing monies into the system, but these targeted money allocations cannot continue forever.
The mental strain and isolation on the population alone will eventually become a serious problem. Will their jobs still be there when this is over? Can they financially hold out that long? And the populace is experiencing increasing anxiety and fear of contracting the virus. Fear for themselves, their children and fear for their vulnerable elderly family members.
The longer this Pandemic goes on, the harder hit to our economy and the worse society as a whole must suffer. And as per our health experts, the end is yet nowhere in sight. Perhaps months or many months or even more before a downturn is expected. Can society as we know it, hang on that long?
So the question now becomes.
Have we yet reached that point of near desperation?
Where we are now willing to try something new and yet untested?
Like the bold new strategy proposed by Dr. David Katz.
If not yet — perhaps we are getting there — very soon!