Herd Immunity: A False Promise

Herd immunity will not rescue the United States from the COVID-19 pandemic.

While herd immunity is an effective solution to combatting the spread of other diseases, it is not the answer to fighting the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kaique Rocha, Pexels

While herd immunity is an effective solution to combatting the spread of other diseases, it is not the answer to fighting the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Morgan Herriott, Print Managing Editor

The practice of herd immunity is one that has great significance in keeping people safe in our society. Herd immunity is when a large portion of a community becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely, according to Mayo Clinic. This leads to an entire community being more protected from a disease, not just those who are immune through vaccines or natural infection. 

Herd immunity is a significant factor in the vaccination debate, as most anti-vaxxers feel as if as long as others contribute to herd immunity, there is no need to vaccinate themselves or their children. However, in the nature of a global pandemic, even with the rapid production of vaccines, large numbers of immune citizens and mask and social distancing mandates, head immunity is not the solution for navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Suggestions of herd immunity to combat COVID-19 typically include young and healthy generations promoting an uncontrolled spread, while those at a higher risk stay in isolation until the threshold of immune people is reached. However, COVID-19 is still a generally new virus and its complexities have not yet been completely explored. While the greatest risk for severe illness due to COVID-19 is for those 85 years or older according to the Centers for Disease Control and Protection, this doesn’t mean that those who are young and/or healthy are not at risk. While it’s not as heavily as those at higher risk, a percentage of this group is still getting very sick and dying from COVID-19. With herd immunity, we need a typically nonfatal disease in which both the short and long term side effects are well known, which is not at all the case with COVID-19.

With this being said, herd immunity could be a possibility much later down the line. In order for this to be the case, over 70% of the population would have to be infected or have an up-to-date vaccination every nine months, according to Intermountain Healthcare. This is due to the fact that from what scientists know so far, immunity to COVID-19 lasts between three to nine months, according to Intermountain Healthcare. This makes it virtually impossible to have herd immunity for COVID-19 through transmission of the disease. The most realistic goal for herd immunity would be when the nation sees a widespread distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Until we are able to achieve a nationwide threshold of those who have received the COVID-19 vaccine, the most effective ways to combat the pandemic will continue to be national mask mandates and social-distancing policies. While herd immunity is an effective practice for spreading immunity from other diseases, it would do more harm than good in the case of COVID-19.