Through vaccination or by being infected, one gains immunity. When many individuals are thus immune to a virus, this will constitute a barrier against the latter. This is called collective immunity.
For many months, doctors, infectious diseases and other experts have insisted that this was the solution to get out of the crisis in which the Covid-19 has entangled us. However, while more than 75% of the population is now vaccinated, the health situation has deteriorated in recent weeks to the point of forcing the Belgian government to impose new measures.
The daily Het Laatste Nieuws thus decided to report the opinions of several experts in order to find out whether collective immunity was now nothing more than a utopia.
For infectious disease specialist Steven Callens (UGent), the variants and temporary efficacy of vaccines changed the game: “When we opted for herd immunity, no other variant was proliferating. People didn’t know either. at the time that the vaccine would not protect as long as we hoped, “he points out. “Fortunately, with a number of additional measures, like the Pfizer pill and other antiviral drugs, it might be possible. And there’s the booster shot which we hope will last longer.”
Virologist Steven Van Gucht also specifies that herd immunity does not mean the outright disappearance of the disease: “It means that the disease burden on health care becomes manageable and predictable.” Which is currently not the case.
Therefore, what percentage should immunity in our territory be raised to hope that the situation is under control? Expert Pierre Van Damme (UAntwerpen) believes that it should reach “85% or more” while Van Gucht would even aim for 90%: “We will achieve group immunity at some point. Maybe in winter. next. Or in the fifth or sixth wave. It might even happen sooner than we think. Viruses also have a cap. They can’t become more contagious all the time. I think we hit it with the variant. current ‘, he hopes.
Should the virus be allowed to spread in society?
Would it therefore be possible to let the coronavirus spread freely in order to achieve this famous collective immunity? For the UGent professor, this is not an option: “The virus is already circulating a lot, especially in schools. The health care system is flooded and admissions are increasing.”
“There are also all the risks that accompany the Covid, such as the ‘Covid long'”, adds Steven Van Gucht. “If the original Wuhan variant had still been dominant, we would have already achieved this collective immunity and it would be over now. We were unlucky,” concludes the interfederal spokesperson.