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COVID-19: Perspective
COVID-19 herd immunity in the absence of a vaccine: an irresponsible approach
Jade Khalife, Derrick VanGennep
Epidemiol Health. 2021;43:e2021012.   Published online February 3, 2021
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  • 10 Web of Science
  • 9 Crossref
AbstractAbstract AbstractSummary PDF
As severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) continues to spread rapidly throughout the human population, the concept of “herd immunity” has attracted the attention of both decision-makers and the general public. In the absence of a vaccine, this entails that a large proportion of the population will be infected to develop immunity that would limit the severity and/or extent of subsequent outbreaks. We argue that adopting such an approach should be avoided for several reasons. There are significant uncertainties about whether achieving herd immunity is possible. If possible, achieving herd immunity would impose a large burden on society. There are gaps in protection, making it difficult to shield the vulnerable. It would defeat the purpose of avoiding harm caused by the virus. Lastly, dozens of countries are showing that containment is possible.
Key Message
Pursuing herd immunity without a vaccine involves numerous uncertainties, is costly in terms of lives and disease, is ineffective, and - being unethical and uncompassionate - is not compatible with human dignity and development.


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