COVID: Saving lives and Boosting the Economy: HERD Immunity

It has becoming obvious that the economy and business in general has been severely hurt by the COVID 19 pandemic, including death. The path we are going is perhaps not the best path in the opinion of many physicians and knowledgeable academics. A path that may be better is called HERD immunity. It may save lives in addition to the economy.

HERD Immunity Vs Vaccines

HERD immunity basically allows people to go along with their normal daily activities, without a 6 feet rule and without wearing masks, and allow people with low susceptibility to the COVID 19 virus to be able to get to work, feed their family, and grow the economy. Primarily these are the people < 65 years old, before retirement age.

 

The concept of HERD immunity is when enough people have been infected by the virus and have developed antibodies to the virus, then the virus can no longer move easily throughout the population and continue to infect people. This is thought to be around 70% to 90% of the population to achieve HERD immunity. It’s a type of natural immunity that is common and that we humans have been doing for centuries.

When you were a very small child, did your parents bring you to see other children who had chickenpox to expose you to that virus and hopefully get chickenpox? The  reason was that when you get chickenpox at an early age you have very few symptoms. Some may get just a few pox marks and that’s it, some nothing. The chances of getting severe chickenpox when you’re young is minimal. When you’re older, especially over 70, the severity of the disease increases markedly and can be severe, including causing death. Sound familiar with the present COVID 19 infections?

Once infected, those who have been infected and now can fight off the disease serve as a protective barrier to those who haven’t been. Once this immunity has developed, the virus tries to infect them, but their immune system kills it immediately, reducing the spread of the virus and protecting those who have never had the virus.

Let’s face it, ultimately we all will most likely develop COVID 19 illness sooner or later. HERD immunity will happen at some point in time,[1] but wouldn’t it be better to get it when we’re younger than when we’re older? There is no doubt, it is better to get the illness when you’re young instead of when you’re old.

Thus, the concept of HERD immunity with COVID 19 is to allow the younger population to live their normal lives while protecting the older population, especially those in nursing homes. For instance, the chance of dying from COVID 19 when you’re less than 35 years old is around 1%, and this chance increases around 1% per decade, as discussed in a prior blog. When you are older than 85, the chance is markedly increases, and this is nursing home/assisted living age.

 

Of course there is a vaccine for chickenpox, but it does not give the immunity to people as good as getting the virus when you’re a child. It is reported to be 87% effective in developing antibodies to chickenpox,[2] but for how long?

The chickenpox vaccine was approved by the FDA in 1995 so it has not undergone the test of time for only 25 years have passed since its development. We don’t know if this immunity stays high enough for protection (sounds like the same stuff they have been saying about the COVID 19 vaccine). There have been outbreaks of the disease in children despite having been vaccinated, although the cases have been milder.[3]  Booster vaccinations have thus been recommended.[4]

Those who have been infected by COVID 10 and survive may also be reinfected, but this incidence is very low, similar to chickenpox. In addition, the recurrent infections appear to be very mild, similar to that with chickenpox, This is what HERD immunity can do.

The COVID 19 vaccine is being developed rapidly. However, we should not rely on it to come out any time soon. The fastest vaccine developed in history was done in four years. You have to test it to make sure it doesn’t cause severe problems over time, such as a delayed meningitis or other severe brain disease 2 to 4 years later. Is this a risk we want to take? Better prediction would be it will most likely be available 2022 at the earliest. We can’t continue to suppress the economy for this long, it’s economically unsustainable.

In addition, the COVID 19 virus loves to mutate. It has already done so several times just during this pandemic. This means that the vaccine may not be effective towards the newly mutated virus around at the time the vaccine becomes available. We have all seen how the effectiveness of the flu vaccine has markedly decreased due to newly mutated strains that develop and the vaccine is not effective for them.

Lockdown & social distancing vs HERD Immunity

The lockdown did decrease the spread of the virus, but a total lockdown is unsustainable. Sooner or later we need to go back to work and get our economy going. We all need to make money, to eat, to have our children enjoy the benefits of face to face school, to have social interactions, etc. It’s obvious that there’s no way to do this when we’re all lockdown and quarantined. In addition, the lockdown produced other problems, including increases in suicide, child abuse, etc.

Social distancing and facemask wearing has resulted in minimal decrease in spread of the virus, but at what price? This has been discussed in prior blogs. The bottom line is that social distancing and masks have saved very few, if any, lives on net. In fact, it has made a large proportion of the population scared to even go out of their house, go to restaurants, shop at stores, or send their children to school. This is partly due to the fearmongering induced by the media and also certain government officials.

By shutting down large segments of economic activity, we have also prevented the formation of natural immunity that we must have as long as we don’t have a vaccine.[5] The economy is stimulated primarily those who are under the age of 65. They are not the ones who are suffering from severe cases or death from COVID 19.

The reality is that deaths from COVID 19 is a nursing home problem. We really have two pandemics going on. One is mild (the younger population) and one is the very old (the nursing home population).[6] This is exemplified in this chart from Canada (British Columbia data) that shows the chances of dying from multiple other causes is high below the age of 79.[7] Note that the red bars, signifying COVID hospitalizations) is hardly even visible before age 60. You’re much more likely to die from other causes than from COVID 19 in the younger age group. These are similar to those seen in the U.S. per CDC data.[8]

[1] Expert comments about herd immunity.March 13, 2020.  https://www.sciencemediacentre.org/expert-comments-about-herd-immunity/.

[2] Vázquez M, et al. The Effectiveness of the Varicella Vaccine in Clinical Practice. N Engl J Med, 2001; 344:955-960

DOI: 10.1056/NEJM200103293441302. (Yale University)

[3] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Outbreak of varicella among vaccinated children–Michigan, 2003. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2004;53(18):389-392.

[4] Tugwell BD, et al. Chickenpox Outbreak in a Highly Vaccinated School Population. Pediatrics March 2004, 113 (3) 455-459; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.113.3.455.

[5] Goodman Institute. Herd Immunity: Saving Lives and Saving the Economy at the Same Time. July 20, 2020.

http://www.goodmaninstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Goodman-Institute-BA-138-Herd-Immunity.pdf

[6] Magness PW. Two Pandemics: One Serious, One Mild. July 2-2020. https://www.aier.org/article/two-pandemics-one-serious-one-mild/

[7] Provincial statistics from the B.C. Centre of Disease Control showing information about COVID-19 on April 6, 2020. B.C. Centre of Disease Control

[8] https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/covid-data/covidview/index.html

It’s really the older population who is suffering from COVID 19, not the younger population. This graph from the Imperial College of London in March of this year illustrates that death rates depend on the age group. It is really the older age population over the age of 60 who are having this problem.

Moreover, the risks of dying from COVID 19 really have more to do with what we do to ourselves than just exposure to the virus. Those who  are obese and those who smoke have a much higher risk of severe COVID 19, as we have discussed in prior blogs, and many authorities have discussed this extensively.[1], [2] In addition, you can do other measures to decrease severity of COVID 19 if you get infected and if you start early in the course of the disease no matter what age, such as use of Hydroxychloroquine, Azithromycin, Zinc, and Peptides as discussed in prior blogs.

Some people state that school age children, if they go back to regular school will spread the virus to older adults. However, most studies have shown that school reopenings do not appear to increase the rate of spread of the virus.[3] Studies have shown that children generally do not spread the virus, especially since most of them are asymptomatic. Generally, children have lower loads of the virus (thus minimal symptoms) and not enough to transmit the virus. Children are unlikely to be the main drivers of the pandemic. Opening up schools and kindergartens is unlikely to impact COVID-19 mortality rates in older people.[4]

Allowing HERD immunity to develop in younger age groups does another thing. It gives them the needed immunity to fight COVID 19 as they get older. It would be a shame to not be able to develop this immunity when younger only to suffer sever disease and possible death when older. HERD immunity will actually save more lives over time than the potential increase in case rate now if implemented.

Conclusion

HERD immunity may be the only way to both stimulate the economy, get people back to work, get kids back to school, and get back to our social lives without exposing excessive risks to those in the younger age group, especially those under 69 years old. Release them from the bonds of all this social distancing, facemasks, fear mongering media blitz and let them live their lives normally.

 

At the same time, protect the very old, age > 70 from the virus as well as possible by any measures that work. This may include all the CDC measures recommended.

 

Get healthier and reduce the risk of developing severe COVID 19 for any age, including losing weight and stopping smoking. Make yourself as healthy as you can to fight off the virus. Everyone should take measures to decrease the severity of COVID 19 no matter what age. But allow the younger population to go back to work, allow HERD immunity to develop in them, and over time this will protect everyone better, including the elderly, and us as we age even more over time than the measure implemented now for social distancing. Let the economy bloom and our immune systems develop now.

[1] Sbraccia P. Obesity is associated with several mechanisms that increase risk for COVID-19 infection and complications. Link Univ of Rome Tor Vergata. (accessed August 2020)

[2] Rottoli, M, et al. How important is obesity as a risk factor for respiratory failure, intensive care admission and death in hospitalised COVID-19 patients? Results from a single Italian centre. doi.org/10.1530/EJE-20-0541 https://eje.bioscientifica.com/view/journals/eje/aop/eje-20-0541/eje-20-0541.xmlLink

[3] Guthrie BL, et al. Summary of School Re-Opening Models and Implementation Approaches During the COVID 19 Pandemic July 6, 2020. https://globalhealth.washington.edu/sites/default/files/COVID-19%20Schools%20Summary%20%28updated%29.pdf

[4] Ludvigsson JF. Children are unlikely to be the main drivers of the COVID‐19 pandemic – A systematic review. Acta Paediatrica. 109(8). May 2020. https://doi.org/10.1111/apa.15371

If you are looking to meet with Dr True, we offer telehealth virtual doctor’s appointments.
Schedule yours here.

SEND MESSAGE
SEND MESSAGE