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Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

Herd immunity dangerous, unethical: WHO DG

We don’t fully understand the virus, says Dr Tedros

‘Herd immunity is achieved by protecting people from a virus, not by exposing them to it.’

By B N KUMAR

MUMBAI, Oct 12 (BNC Network) Cautioning the world against “allowing a dangerous virus that we don’t fully understand to run free” is simply unethical, the World Health Organisation has firmly ruled out the concept of herd immunity to deal with COVID.

“Allowing a dangerous virus that we don’t fully understand to run free is simply unethical. It’s not an option,” said WHO director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus addressing a virtual global media meet Monday.

Pointing out that there has been some discussion about the concept of reaching so-called “herd immunity” by letting the virus spread, he said.

Herd immunity is a concept used for vaccination, in which a population can be protected from a certain virus if a threshold of vaccination is reached. For example, herd immunity against measles requires about 95% of a population to be vaccinated. The remaining 5% will be protected by the fact that measles will not spread among those who are vaccinated, Dr Tedros explained.

"In other words, herd immunity is achieved by protecting people from a virus, not by exposing them to it," he declared.

He recalled that never in the history of public health has herd immunity been used as a strategy for responding to an outbreak, let alone a pandemic. “It is scientifically and ethically problematic," he said.

“One we don’t know enough about immunity to COVID-19,” he said

Most people who are infected with the virus develop an immune response within the first few weeks, but we don’t know how strong or lasting that immune response is, or how it differs for different people.

Letting COVID19 circulate unchecked therefore means allowing unnecessary infections, suffering & death, he said

Although older people and those with underlying conditions are most at risk of severe disease and death, they aren't the only ones at risk. “People of all ages have died,” Dr Tedros told the world.

“We are only beginning to understand the long-term health impacts among people with COVID19. I have met with patient groups suffering with what is now being described as Long COVID to understand their suffering and needs so we can advance research and rehabilitation," he said.

Dr Tedros said Digital technologies are helping to make tried-and-tested public health tools even more effective, such as mobile applications to support contact tracing efforts.

The Aarogya Setu app from  India has been downloaded by 150M users, and has helped city public health departments to identify areas where clusters could be anticipated & expand testing in a targeted way. Germany’s Corona-Warn app has been used to transmit 1.2M test results from labs to users in its first 100 days, he added.

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