Some people have been talking about how we need to develop “herd immunity” to combat the coronavirus pandemic. Herd immunity is when 70% of society gets immunity from a disease, and the disease becomes nearly powerless to infect others.
An analogy for herd immunity
For example, think about Tarzan swinging from vine to vine to get from one place to another. Tarzan represents the disease. The vines represent people. If you were to remove 70% of the vines, Tarzan wouldn’t be able to get around. There would still be vines, but not close enough together for him to use them as a method of transportation. The removed vines represent people who are immune to the disease. You need to get infected and survive to be immune. That, or you need to get vaccinated.
We need a vaccine for the virus
The only safe way to achieve herd immunity against the virus is to vaccinate at least 70% of the country. To suggest anything else is stupid and dangerous.
Some have entertained the idea of “controlled voluntary infection,” akin to the “chickenpox parties” of the 1980s. However, COVID-19 is 100 times more lethal than the chickenpox. For example, on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, the mortality rate among those infected with SARS-CoV-2 was 1%. Someone who goes to a “coronavirus party” to get infected would not only be substantially increasing their own chance of dying in the next month, they would also be putting their families and friends at risk. COVID-19 is now the leading cause of death in the United States, killing almost 2,000 Americans every day. Chickenpox never killed more than 150 Americans in a year.
To reach herd immunity for COVID-19, likely 70% or more of the population would need to be immune. Without a vaccine, over 200 million Americans would have to get infected before we reach this threshold. Put another way, even if the current pace of the COVID-19 pandemic continues in the United States – with over 25,000 confirmed cases a day – it will be well into 2021 before we reach herd immunity. If current daily death rates continue, over half a million Americans would be dead from COVID-19 by that time.
I tend to believe Johns Hopkins more than I believe Joe Rogan or Richard C. Meyer. If your remedy to the problem involves over 500,000 Americans’ death, I suggest you go back to the drawing board. Better yet, put the chalk down and go sit down. Let the experts figure it out.
There is a lot we don’t know about this specific coronavirus. Even if you contract it and survive, it doesn’t mean you won’t have long-term health problems. Your future healthcare needs could be extensive and costly. This novel coronavirus ain’t chickenpox.