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Controversy on attempting to reach 'herd immunity' against COVID-19 contintues Updated: 2020-10-15 09:24:46 KST

THE RESURGENCE of COVID-19 in quite a few countries across the world is also RE-IGNITING the DEBATE over HERD IMMUNITY.
The global health body for its part has denounced this option calling it immoral.
I have our Kim Ji-yeon here in the studio.
Welcome Ji-yeon.
Ji-yeon let's start with a simple definition of the term herd immunity please.

Sure.
Herd immunity describes a state in which a large enough share of the population is resistant to a disease to prevent it from spreading widely, thereby providing protection to a minority of people who either don't have natural antibodies or have not been vaccinated.
But, since we are still working on a COVID-19 vaccine, achieving herd immunity right now would require a large number of people to contract the virus, survive it and then produce sufficient antibodies for long-term protection.
However, the W-H-O has strongly discouraged countries from any attempts at achieving herd immunity at the current stage.

(English Reuters 2612)
"Herd immunities are achieved by protecting people from a virus, not by exposing them to it. 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's scientifically and ethically problematic."

The W-H-O chief cautioned that herd immunity is a concept used for vaccination, to determine the threshold needed to protect a population from a certain virus.
For example, herd immunity against measles requires about 95 percent of a population to be vaccinated.
For polio, it is about 80-percent.

I see.
Questions are also being asked about our body's ability to produce sufficient antibodies to keep us from falling ill with COVID-19 a second time.

Yes.
Fresh concerns are mounting amid reports that a COVID-19 patient died after contracting the virus for a second time, the world's first recorded death of a re-infected patient.
It could further raise questions on our body's ability to form immunity against the virus and the duration of antibodies after recovering from COVID-19.
According to a research reported by the Clinical Infectious Diseases journal, an 89-year-old Dutch woman who was being treated with bone marrow cancer died after contracting the virus for the second time.
Her case may also provide a cautionary tale for those mulling the herd immunity approach, which is based on the assumption of lasting immunity for those who've been infected with COVID-19 and survived.

I also hear the patient experienced far more severe symptoms compared to those during her first battle with COVID-19?

That's right.
Earlier this year, when she was confirmed with the virus for the first time, she was discharged from the hospital after just five days when her symptoms improved.
Some 50 days since being discharged the patient was re-infected with the virus, but only this time, she was running a high fever, coughing and had breathing problems, at a time when she was undergoing cancer treatment.
Her condition worsened and she died two weeks after her second diagnosis with COVID-19.
Although COVID-19 has been cited as the woman's official cause of death, the research stated that in the patient's case, her immune system could have been weakened due to cancer therapy and her old age.
But, despite these underlying factors, COVID-19 was cited as the principal cause that led to her ultimate demise.

Also antibody studies are being carried out by many countries to gauge the level of overall immunity in their respective populations.
Have we gained any insight from these endeavors?

Experts say it's too early to derive any firm conclusions at this stage, because there are too many variables, but early results have shown that in the case of Korea, the population had very little immunity.
Two rounds of nationwide antibody tests, with the results being published in July and September by Korean health authorities, showed the country's immunity rate stood at less than one-percent.
We do have to keep in mind that the sample size was very small, with the second round of antibody tests being carried out on roughly 14-hundred people, a tiny fraction of Korea's total population.
Looking at similar studies conducted abroad, the cities with the highest immunity rate include New York City at nearly 25 percent and London at 17 percent, but even these are well short of the threshold necessary to reach herd immunity.

Thank you Ji-yeon for that report.
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