We've really been through the wringer the past year and a half, waiting for the vaccine, waiting for herd immunity… Now, herd immunity might not be enough…
But, just what is herd immunity and why is it so important?
What Is Herd Immunity – Beyond The Hype and Fear
Beyond the flashy PR statements and hype, herd immunity is a real thing. It's where a population becomes resistant to the spread of an infectious disease based on pre-existing immunity of a high proportion of individuals due to previous infection or vaccination. It's not the total elimination disease.
For example, measles, polio, smallpox, and many other illnesses achieved herd immunity but haven't disappeared. Even with mass vaccinations, we still find outbreaks occasionally. The big difference is that they affect a smaller number of people who are previously exposed or vaccinated and experience fewer symptoms.
Achieving herd immunity for COVID, the flu, and the common cold is slightly different for a couple of reasons.
How COVID Is Different Than The Measles, Smallpox, and Polio
We have to take a look at a couple of different social factors and biological factors to see why COVID is a little different.
The first is a social reason. Some people are choosing not to get the vaccine for religious or ideological grounds. They do not want something foreign injected into their body. Many times, these people eschew all vaccines, not just this one.
Another aspect of a social reason is some people just do not trust the vaccine. None of the vaccines have gone through thorough testing over long-term studies, plus there is an intense push that everybody gets the vaccine on a fanatical, almost witch-hunt-type scale. It causes some people to worry about potential long-term side effects and what this might do to a person's social standing.
Moving more on to the biological side, some people physically cannot get the vaccine. Some autoimmune disorders will practically guarantee a person gets sick and be in pain because of the vaccine. They are choosing a slight chance of contracting the virus over a substantial likelihood of physical disability.
Now, we look at the virus itself.
Unlike the measles, flu, smallpox, and other illnesses that we use a vaccine for, COVID mutates rapidly. In just one year, four viable mutations emerged. Usually, these mutations occur over years and decades, not weeks.
It's still unclear if the vaccine protects against these mutations (at the time of this writing). It's possible that it doesn't and it is possible that it does. It's also very likely that additional vaccines for the mutations will emerge.
And with this, we come full circle back to the social reasons. If the virus is mutating this quickly, can we have safe and effective vaccines against all the mutations? And how many vaccines are you willing to subject yourself to?
Why Herd Immunity Might Not Be Possible
Between the social reluctance and the mutation of the virus, some scientists and doctors believe herd immunity might not be possible at this point.
On the social side, over 80% of the population has to receive a vaccine or develop the antibodies naturally to achieve this herd immunity. Over time, we will achieve this goal, but it might take a few years.
But, that will mean nothing if the virus continues to mutate and mutate stronger. Only time will tell what will happen.
How to protect yourself right now
One thing is for certain, just like the flu or the common cold, everybody will eventually have this. The strength of your immune system will determine whether you get sick or sail through.
Doctors agree these three things make a massive difference in your immune strength:
- Eat lots of fruits and vegetables – the antioxidants within fruits and vegetables help fight off bacteria and viruses and support your immune system to be strong.
- Get exercise - study after study shows that people who exercise regularly have a more robust immune system and have a successful respiratory response to viruses like COVID.
- Get out in the sun – the sun produces vitamin D, a powerful antioxidant and helps reduce the spread of bacteria and viruses. People who spend time outside are happier and healthier than those cooped up inside.
Going for a walk is one of the best ways to get exercise and get yourself out into the sun.