Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many experts have predicted that it will end when a sufficient number of people on Earth get sick with this disease or get vaccinated against the coronavirus. Is it possible to actually form herd immunity? German scientists tried to answer this question.
Herd immunity does not always mean that the disease has been completely eradicated. “This does not mean that no one else can become infected, but only that the risk of infection has significantly decreased and the number of infections is at a low level,” – quotes Deutsche Welle professor of clinical pharmacy at the University of Saar Torsten Lehr.
“Sooner or later, collective immunity in Germany against the coronavirus will be formed,” says Christine Falk, chairman of the German Society for Immunology, to Deutsche Welle. “This requires about 85 percent of the population to be vaccinated or have had COVID.”
The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) in July in its report cited information that at least 85 percent of the German population aged 12 to 59 years old, as well as 90 percent of people over 60 years old, must be fully vaccinated against coronavirus in order for the situation with COVID, the country could be brought under control.
According to Christine Fall, “in the fall and winter, we will already have a high number of immunized people, and thus herd immunity may one day be formed.”
But, as Deutsche Welle notes, the question is what will be the cost of immunization, since those who have already had coronavirus also have immunity.
So it is necessary to strive for the formation of herd immunity through vaccination, says Christine Falk.
“People who do not want to be vaccinated can get severe COVID,” says Torsten Lehr. “It doesn’t matter how old they are. We must not forget about the long-term consequences of the transferred COVID. “
For German scientists, the example of neighboring Denmark is of great interest, where most of the restrictions imposed in connection with the pandemic were recently lifted. In the Scandinavian kingdom, 75 percent of the population was vaccinated at the end of September, and in Germany, the number of those who received a full vaccination is now 64.4 percent. But in many countries around the world, this figure is much lower, notes Deutsche Welle. In low-income countries, only 2.3 percent of the population has been vaccinated against coronavirus at least once. And in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, only 0.04 percent of the population is fully vaccinated. In those countries where the number of vaccinated is small, with a high increase in infections, there is a risk of new mutations of the coronavirus.
“New mutations from other countries may someday harm the herd immunity formed in Germany,” warns Torsten Lehr. “New variants of the coronavirus have emerged in Colombia and South Africa and are spreading around the world.”
If mutations of the coronavirus appear, against which there is no effective vaccine yet, then a new protection will have to be developed. “Therefore, if we think globally, the model of the formation of collective immunity for all mankind is unattainable,” the scientist is skeptical.
“We are still far from stopping the spread of the coronavirus in the world,” admits Dirk Brockmann, a scientist at the Humboldt University of Berlin.
However, not everything, judging by the opinion of German scientists, is so sad: the coronavirus can mutate, but there is no protection against it. “I do not expect that there will be a variant of the coronavirus against which our vaccines will be ineffective. Most likely, this is unlikely, ”hopes Christine Falk.
In any case, according to experts, the vaccines already available still protect against the severe course of COVID. According to the Robert Koch Institute, there are more unvaccinated patients with severe coronavirus disease in intensive care units than those who have been vaccinated. “Thanks to vaccination, the likelihood of contracting coronavirus is significantly reduced,” explains Tobias Lehr. “And in this way you also protect those people around who have not been vaccinated.”
“Vaccination is very good, and if you are fully immunized, that is, vaccinated twice, then during the fall-winter you will be provided with good immune protection,” Christine Falk supports this point of view, calling on people with chronic diseases, weak immunity, and elderly people to receive the third vaccination.
Meanwhile, new research recently released suggests that natural immunity from previous COVID-19 infection may offer stronger protection against Delta coronavirus than immunity from full vaccination. Israeli researchers from Maccabi Healthcare and Tel Aviv University compared people who received two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine with unvaccinated people who recovered from COVID. Scientists found that naturally immunized study participants were 13 times less likely to be infected with COVID than those who received two vaccines.