Within a year’s time, the coronavirus has led to an astounding worldwide and that number continues to rise everyday. The disease became widespread in the late parts of 2019, where it affected only a few countries at first but then continued to spread globally. The question on everyone’s mind now is, can a vaccine and herd immunity end COVID-19?
COVID-19, a highly infectious disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, is a pulmonary disease. It has caused the death of many and typically presents with symptoms of pneumonia and respiratory failure. The disease was proclaimed a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO) after its widespread menace around the globe, infecting tens of thousands globally per day and killing thousands, with the mortality rate increasing exponentially.
Following the global lockdown, the WHO prepared measures to respond to the fast spread of diseases. These measures were aimed at reducing the death toll across countries by curbing the disease spread. The WHO precautions include:
- remaining indoors if unwell
- maintaining good respiratory hygiene by using a handkerchief
- avoiding touching one’s eyes, nose or mouth
- wearing a face mask
- keeping at a safe distance of 6 feet from anyone coughing or sneezing
- washing one’s hands always with soap and water or sanitizers
However, despite these preventive measures, COVID-19 is still prevalent and continues to spread.
The End Of A Pandemic
The world is in search of a way to restore global health, to put an end to the pandemic and restore the state of normalcy. Past epidemics faced by the world were curbed by many measures, which can serve as a guide to the end of Covid-19.
The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic of 2003 was a close relative to the current pandemic. This was a far more infectious case of coronavirus. However, its end was seen by the violent epidemiological approaches to the plague which included isolating the sick, implementation of social distancing, and quarantine. This made the containment of the disease possible.
However, the current strain of the coronavirus has failed to be checked by these methods because unlike the SARS epidemic of 2003, people infected with the Covid-19 virus can look healthy for a long period of time without showing symptoms (asymptomatic) therefore, making isolation of the sick and quarantining of contacts very difficult and close to impossible.
Smallpox, another deadly infectious disease, was fully eradicated by the use of a vaccine. Vaccines help the body develop an immunity to viral disease and thus prevents the effects of the disease. Smallpox vaccine is no longer being made available as smallpox has been eradicated. The WHO declared that smallpox has been eradicated in 1980. Smallpox vaccination ended after the disease was successfully eradicated. The 1918 flu pandemic which lasted for a span of over two years, was naturally eradicated by what is referred to as herd immunity.
Vaccination And Herd Immunity Against COVID-19
According to the parameters of scientific knowledge, a sure way to put an end to Covid-19 is vaccination against the virus, as isolation and quarantine as a way to curtail it’s spread.
However, the development and availability of a vaccine will stop the transmission of the disease by giving immunity to those who take it. It will prevent further infection of people by stimulating the body to recognize the virus as a threat. The disease could surface again if the vaccine produced confers only a short term immunity against the virus, like that produced for measles. Having said that, any appropriate vaccine produced now is still the best option against the coronavirus.
Before now, countries, pharmaceutical and biotech companies were in a race to develop effective Covid-19 vaccine. The good news is that effective Covid-19 vaccines have been developed by Pfizer/BioNTech, Johnson & Jonhson and Moderna etc.
Herd immunity, on the other hand, is not the solution to Covid-19. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient number of people in the world have become immune to disease either through vaccination or survival from the infection. The natural eradication of the 1918 Flu came about from herd immunity. The spread of the pandemic back then was outrageous. However, with a great number of persons already immune to the disease, the likelihood of spread and further infection was greatly reduced. Therefore, the disease was contained.
Despite the number of infected globally from coronavirus being almost two million, this number is still not close to the required percentage that will allow herd immunity to end the pandemic. So if one is looking for a close end to the pandemic, the best bet is the appropriate vaccines. Natural disease control measures such as herd immunity will take years before the increasing death tolls to subside and finally terminate.
Vaccinating the general public is the only sure means to the end of the virus. However, viruses have proven to be unpredictable in the past and in fact, another strain of the coronavirus has been discovered in some countries like the United Kingdom. Hence, there is need to take into consideration the fact that this virus has the ability to mutate when developing an effective vaccine.