For many months, reaching herd immunity has been the ultimate hope and goal for the world, with governments hurriedly aiming to vaccinate their populations against COVID-19.
But with the Delta variant tearing through countries more quickly and relentlessly than the original virus strain, infecting and even reinfecting people around the world governments are reintroducing restrictions and re-thinking their pandemic response plans.
Vaccination targets are now being questioned, along with the concept of herd immunity itself.
William Schaffner, MD, is the medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, and a professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Tennessee.
1. An Oxford professor Andrew Pollard said that herd immunity is a mythical concept with the Delta variant running loose. What are your thoughts on this?
2. Can we expect future variants of COVID-19 to be even more transmissible than Delta? How should national COVID-19 response plans and measures adapt?
3. A 90 year-old Belgian woman was found to have contracted two different COVID-19 variants at the same time. Is this common, and should we be worried?
4. If people can be re-infected with other variants, is herd immunity and an end to this pandemic achievable? How often will we need booster shots?
5. Some are concerned that vaccine-induced immunity will not be as durable as immunity from natural infection. Is this true?
6. How long do you expect Delta to last?
7. There have been cases of young people experiencing heart problems after being vaccinated. Are they more susceptible to side effects?
8. A bigger flu season than normal is expected, with scientists warning respiratory viruses will make a comeback this year after disappearing last year during lockdown. There are concerns about the flu season these days. Should people who have got vaccinated against COVID-19 still get the flu shot?
9. Much of the focus of national COVID response plans have been on inoculating their populations. While it is important to roll out vaccinations, it is just as critical to develop effective treatments that will cure people who have fallen ill with the virus. What are hospitals mostly using at the moment and what kind of developments do you hope to see?
10. You must have heard a lot of strange theories and fake news about COVID-19 vaccines. What are some that you found the most amusing or alarming?
That was William Schaffner, MD, is the medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, and a professor of medicine of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. Thank you for your time.