In this era of vast uncertainty, one thing that has remained constant is the innumerable questions. When is this going to end? Are children at risk to the virus? Is ordering fried chicken three nights in a row a terrible idea?*
And one really quite important query: is COVID-19 getting less lethal over time?
2020 has been the year that vague epidemiological theories that were mostly of interest to us nerds suddenly became mainstream. Herd immunity, which previously was mostly the purview of epidemiologists in mouldering public health departments, suddenly became worthy of mainstream discussion and endless debate. Infection fatality rates, which were previously restricted mostly to infectious diseases conferences, have suddenly become headline news around the world.
And most recently, we have the debate about cost and benefit. Cost-benefit analyses are a pivotal part of the epidemiological landscape, because as public health experts we are all too aware that there are limited resources to play around with when it comes to health interventions, something that has been even truer this year than ever before. …
In this year of unexpected nonsense, the one thing that I would’ve never predicted is the hydra of herd immunity. When I was first asked by a journalist what I thought of herd immunity as an exit strategy for the pandemic, way back in April, I laughed nervously and said “No one is actually suggesting that are they? It’s absurd”.
Reader, not only were people suggesting it then, they’ve continued to do so almost every day since.
So, let’s talk herd immunity, what it is and isn’t, and why it still isn’t a solution to COVID-19 no matter what has been reported. …