Without A Real Coronavirus Vaccine, Herd Immunity Is Our Only Hope

Without A Real Coronavirus Vaccine, Herd Immunity Is Our Only Hope

Herd immunity is exactly what the spike in cases indicates is developing, and we need it to continue.
Joy Pullmann
By

Politicians have been reimposing and maintaining lockdowns and mask mandates due to media furor over “spikes” in coronavirus cases. This has happened in 21 states and many more localities, says The New York Times. One of the many problems with this is that the nation needs people to keep getting coronavirus.

That’s because coronavirus spread is a natural vaccine that protects those who survive  — which is the vast majority — and even those who don’t catch it, through herd immunity. This natural vaccine is our only antidote to the virus until a manufactured vaccine can be made, a process that experts say is still at least a year away, and possibly as many as four years or even never.

As an article in The National Interest by two researchers put it, “The Coronavirus Will Be With Us For Years to Come.” The article notes that plain physical realities will likely prevent any vaccine from being widely available for possibly four years:

[E]ven after a vaccine is found to be safe and effective, it will take a long time before it is mass-produced and introduced because of the challenges posed by producing billions of vaccines. The Strategic National Stockpile has only 2 percent of the 650 million to 850 million needles and syringes needed for mass vaccination. Shortages in silica sand, needed to make the medical-grade vials, are expected to slow production. According to Ryan Cross, ‘No company currently has the capacity to make enough vaccine for the entire U.S., let alone the world.’ Some estimate that mass vaccinations could take four years.

That’s even if an effective vaccine can be found. Coronaviruses are notoriously difficult to pre-empt with vaccines. The seasonal flu vaccine, for example, which also aims at various coronaviruses, can be as effective as 3 to 9 percent — or barely useful at all.

We vaccinate because the more people who develop resistance to a disease, the more likely a disease is to fade or die from lack of hosts. This is called herd immunity. Herd immunity can be developed by vaccinating widely, or from people getting a disease and surviving it, or some combination of the two.

Since we do not have a vaccine anywhere in our near future, if at all, the only other public health strategy we have for reducing the coronavirus toll is for as many people as possible to get and survive it. This was part of the rationale behind the “flatten the curve” campaign that baited Americans into lockdowns until it was switched out for “any spread of the disease justifies locking down every activity forever,” a criterion we do not use for any other risk on the planet.

Further, the current increase in coronavirus cases while the rate of coronavirus deaths declines may suggest either that some amount herd immunity has beeen reached, our massive increase in testing is showing the disease to be far less dangerous than we at first thought, or some combination of the two.

Regardless, the latest infection “spike” has not been accompanied by a massive death spike, which means the lethality of this disease is registering significantly lower than it did three months ago. A rise in cases without a matching increase in deaths is something we should celebrate, not least because it likely protects more elderly and other vulnerable people from death due to rising immunity.

As “flatten the curve” implies, keeping people hiding in their basements slows the progression of the virus to essentially bail out hospitals that put much, much more energy into pushing for monopolies on taxpayer dollars than preparing for a pandemic they knew was coming. Maintaining virus spread below local health-care capacity may be reasonable. But attempting to stop coronavirus altogether is idiotic.

Yet that’s what politicians and the media indicate is their new goal. The proof is their wild reactions to the health necessity of increased coronavirus cases, which are now occurring while the nation continues to have huge amounts of excess hospital and other health-care capacity.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom locked down his state again earlier this month, reversing an economic reopening for the world’s fifth-largest economy. Yesterday he banned schools in most of the state, including private schools, from offering in-person instruction for months to millions of children.

Numerous cities have taken similar steps, including in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Durham, North Carolina. This will make working nearly impossible for the parents of all these children, further crippling local economies. The feckless leaders of these localities should not be bailed out for their terrible decisions, either.

Many small businesses that survived the first lockdowns, at least for now, will not survive the second, nor will they survive media fearmongering keeping people from frequenting businesses and schools even in states with technically looser rules. Small businesses are the nation’s economic engine and employ nearly half the working population. Untold thousands of people will get sick and die if we engineer another Great Depression that causes people to lose health insurance and the ability to pay medical bills and get care for chronic conditions.

Lockdowns themselves also increase the death toll by delaying herd immunity.

“[I]f we stop the quarantine for all low-risk people now, herd immunity would develop more quickly,” wrote an academic physician in April for The Federalist. Herd immunity is exactly what the spike in cases indicates is developing, and we need it to continue. The alternative is not just economic and consequently national suicide from tanking an economy already running on quantitative easing, it’s actually more deaths, the physician pointed out:

A full quarantine will result in the deaths of more elderly and medically ill people because more of them will become infected. A partial quarantine [of at-risk people] would likely result in a greater number of mild infections in young and healthy individuals upfront (but not total).

How many more elderly or medically ill people will die due to a full quarantine? It is hard to say, but a conservative estimate would be 5-10 times the number of young and healthy people who may die from a partial quarantine, based on fatality rates published by the CDC.

Look, we have two main options for managing this disease. One is to keep everyone in their homes indefinitely — not for the initially promised two weeks, not for the later promised few months, but indefinitely. The second is to protect high-risk people while the rest of us more or less go about our business and check into the hospital if we pick the coronavirus lottery ticket that gives us worse symptoms than the overwhelming majority of those stricken so far.

Staying home indefinitely is not a viable option for anyone who is not independently wealthy. We can pretend we are independently wealthy by stealing trillions from other people’s children, at least for a while, like Americans do now. But there is a natural limit to that also, and we have reached it even if we cannot see it all yet, like the first few hours of an ocean liner crashing into an iceberg.

It’s time to get back to life and stop pretending it’s possible to hide from this virus. We are all going to get it, sooner or later, and we have to. The herd immunity this will produce, far more than masks, is what will really protect the vulnerable.

Joy Pullmann is executive editor of The Federalist, a happy wife, and the mother of six children. Her newest ebooks are"Classic Books for Young Children" and "32 Classic Games You Can Play Anywhere." @JoyPullmann is also the author of "The Education Invasion: How Common Core Fights Parents for Control of American Kids," from Encounter Books.

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