IMMUNITY
August 24th, 2021
3 mins read

Importance of Herd Immunity and How to Achieve It

The COVID-19 pandemic can be controlled by achieving herd immunity

Herd immunity occurs when the majority of the population is immunity

Vaccination plays a major role in achieving herd immunity against COVID

With the coronavirus pandemic making its presence felt across the world, scientists and researchers are on the lookout for ways to eliminate this disease. Researchers believe that the infection can be controlled if herd immunity is achieved. However, herd immunity may be effective only when the population reaches the herd immunity threshold [1]. Herd immunity threshold means the point at which the rate of susceptible individuals for an infection reduces below the threshold required for transmission.

Although people are being vaccinated for protection against the infection, the proportion of the population to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity remains unknown [2]. Read on to know more about it and the importance of herd immunity in combating infectious diseases.

What is Herd Immunity? 

Wondering about the actual herd immunity definition? Here it is. Herd immunity takes place when the majority of the population is immune to a disease. This restrains the spread of infection thereby providing indirect protection to those who are not immune. Thus, it helps in preventing the herd or the community from infections. For instance, if 80% of a population is immune to a specific disease, eight out of 10 people won’t fall sick when they come in contact with an infected person.

Around 50% to 90% of the population should be immune to a disease for the infection rates to decline [3]. However, the actual herd immunity threshold depends on how contagious the infection is. For example, measles is a highly contagious disease and requires above 95% of people to be immune in order to curb its spread [4]. 

how to reduce spread of covid

Importance of Herd Immunity 

Herd immunity provides indirect protection to the whole community. It is usually required to protect infants, children, people with weak immunity, and those who are more prone to infections. Herd immunity plays an important role in controlling the spread of diseases. To give you a herd immunity example, polio was one of the common infectious diseases, which is now under control by making the population immune to it.

You may be aware of the work of the immunity system. It helps your body fight against harmful pathogens and provides protection against infections. Thus, to achieve herd immunity more people should be immune to specific diseases. For example, measles, mumps, and chickenpox are some examples of contagious diseases that are now being controlled by achieving herd immunity.

Additional Read: What is Immunity? A Guide to How the Immune System Works 

How to achieve Herd Immunity? 

Now that you know that herd immunity is required to control the transmission of infections, here are two ways to achieve herd immunity.

  • Previous Infections 

Recovering from natural infections develops antibodies that provide protection against future infections. Thus, herd immunity can be reached when enough people recover and develop antibodies against the disease. However, there are dangers of developing herd immunity through community infection. For example, it is possible for you to contract the COVID-19 infection after recovering from it. In such cases, infections can lead to serious complications.

  • Vaccines 

Unlike the method of developing antibodies through natural infections, vaccines are a safe way of creating immunity. People can be vaccinated against a specific disease to develop antibodies. Herd immunity can be reached by vaccinating the population, thereby reducing the spread of infection. Vaccines have been successfully used to create herd immunity against diseases such as polio, rubella, and smallpox. 

Additional Read: How to Improve Immunity?

Herd Immunity and COVID-19 

With COVID-19 spreading across every corner of the world, continuous efforts are being made to control and prevent the disease. The precautionary measures include wearing a mask, maintaining hygiene, following social distancing protocol, and getting vaccinated. Vaccination is a big step towards achieving herd immunity against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Although the race is on to get as many people vaccinated before they get infected, the road seems too long. It would require at least 80-90% of the population to be immune to COVID-19 in order to achieve herd immunity either through vaccination or previous infection [5].

However, there are challenges ahead. Many people are hesitant or skeptical about taking the vaccine. It is also not clear how long the vaccines will protect against the disease or how effective they will be against new variants. In addition, there is an uneven roll-out of vaccines among and within countries. For example, if one country achieves the vaccination rate required for herd immunity and others don’t, there is still a risk of an outbreak if the populations mix. In any case, following precautions and getting yourself vaccinated helps reduce the risk of infection and prevents severe complications.

Additional Read: Covishield vs Sputnik vs Covaxin or Pfizer? Major Differences and Important Tips

Now that you know the importance of herd immunity, it is your responsibility to get vaccinated to protect yourself and those around you. Use the COVID-19 vaccine finder on Bajaj Finserv Health to book your vaccination slot. You can also book an online doctor consultation within minutes to address any concerns you may have about vaccination from the comfort of your home.

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