Australia has not reached group immunity at all for the corona virus, and experts say it is something we should like.
Our health authorities have other choices in how they handle pandemics, and therefore don’t need to rely on herd immunity – positions that are worth emulating, according to Professor Nigel McMillan, head of the Griffith University Infectious Disease and Immunology Program.
In comparison, hard hit countries like the US, Britain and Spain have no choice but to see herd immunity as part of their solution.
Group immunity is achieved when a sizable proportion of the population is infected but recovering from a new virus, developing an immunity level that prevents the next wave of infection from becoming too strong.
Unfortunately, that often means many deaths were suffered during the initial escape.
Before the development of vaccines and other preventive treatments, it was considered one of the main ways the pandemic ended – its ‘taking the road’ nature.
But Australia is determined to suppress and contain this disease while trying to penetrate to the other side of this global pandemic.
This concept raises many questions. Here are some answers.
Can Australia achieve group immunity?
Yes But many people might die of COVID-19 first, and we are not nearby right now.
“We continue to do well in Australia … on the one hand we are victims of our success,” Deputy Chief of Medical Staff Professor Paul Kelly this week.
“Because we have so few people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 … we are not near the concept of herd immunity.
“We’ve seen what [seeking herd immunity] has been done in other parts of the world, so we will not go to that. “
In the UK, where there are 165,000 confirmed infections so far – compared to Australia with less than 7,000 – there are more than 26,000 deaths.
Around 36 million of its 67 million population need to capture COVID-19 for herd immunity to provide protection, according to the UK’s chief scientific advisor Sir Patrick Valance, who said 60 percent of people need to be infected.
The British authorities must quickly back down from the proposed actions after meeting with anger from scientists.
The Nordic nation aims to “build a kind of immunity”, according to chief epidemiologist Anders Tegnell.
The decision was a gamble and an exchange, said Professor McMillan.
“They bargained, I think, that the herd immunity they got from it was commensurate with the lives they took,” said Professor McMillan.
“[Sweden] has 2500 deaths [so far], which isn’t much in the scheme of things, but that’s about 10 times more than their Norwegian neighbors, and about five times more than their other Danish neighbors. “
Will this affect the way restrictions are relaxed?
The Federal Government believes restrictions can be reduced as long as the rate of spread or “effective reproduction number” of the corona virus remains below one.
More testing, greater monitoring to detect those infected with coronavirus, and faster tracking of those who have been in contact with are also needed before restrictions can be lifted.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said The COVIDS secure search application from the government is one of the most important tools to start the process.
Authorities say the strategy also gives medical staff time to prepare for a possible second or third wave of the virus.
So what happened in the second wave of cases?
Many historians believe that the second wave of deadly Spanish Flu in mid-1918 was more severe because only a few people were immune during the initial outbreak.
A century later, the authorities did not believe coronavirus would follow the same pattern.
Professor Kelly said medical and technological advances, including the ability to track disease, were modern advantages.
“We are much better prepared than we should be [for the Spanish Flu second wave]”Professor Kelly said.
“If the second wave occurs, we will deal with it quickly and we will respond to it.”
Isn’t low herd immunity a bad thing?
We want to avoid spreading the disease as much as possible, according to Professor McMillan.
He said Australia must focus on quickly extinguishing the “hotspots” of new cases that could emerge in the future.
“That makes our population less immune to swarms – and we want to stay that way until there is a vaccine,” he said.
“As long as we can maintain them and stop the spread in our community it will be fine.”
Can immune herds stop COVID-19?
Scientists have not confirmed whether herd immunity can really work – it is not known whether people who survive COVID-19 are resistant to it after they recover.
Diego Silva, a lecturer in bioethics at the University of Sydney, said we still don’t know everything about viruses and the body’s response to them.
“Letting the virus spread in your country when you don’t know whether, or how long for people to be vulnerable a second time to the COVID-19 virus is a risk,” he said.
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