What Is Herd Immunity? Everything You Need To Know

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Picture a herd or community of healthy people. An infectious virus or disease would pass easily through the community from person to person. Vaccines train our immune system to protect us from diseases it hasn’t come in contact with before. For example, the MMR vaccine provides immunity against measles, mumps, and rubella. During an outbreak of a disease, vaccinated people will remain healthy. As they won't become infected, they won't pass on the disease. Hence, if most of the community is vaccinated, it makes it difficult for the disease to actually spread to the rest of the community. This is the basis of herd immunity. 

If most people in the community are not vaccinated, herd immunity can break down, allowing the disease to spread more easily.

Herd immunity becomes especially important for the individuals in a herd who can't be vaccinated. These could be people who are either too old, too young or have weaker immune systems

Herd Immunity without Vaccination: Another way the building of herd immunity could happen is if many people contract the disease and in time build up an immune response to it (natural immunity). In this case, the herd would have to be fit enough to contract the disease, survive it and then become immune towards it. 

 It is important to note that in order for herd immunity to take action, the disease/virus must be categorized as a Contagious one. (capable of spreading)

COVID-19 and Herd Immunity In India

Renowned Immunologist and Cell Biologist Dipyaman Ganguly has said that one of the only hopes in defeating the novel coronavirus is by developing ‘herd immunity,’ 

In an interview with news9, he said, “This coronavirus is not going anywhere. Viruses don’t go anywhere. They may become weak but its strand remains. The virus will keep infecting people until a large population develops immunity against it.”

He has also stated that immunity could only be achieved through a vaccine or by getting infected by the virus. “Since developing a vaccine for COVID-19 is not an easy task and it is unlikely that we will get one soon, the only hope that remains is that of herd immunity and it is bound to happen.”

Explaining the idea of herd immunity further, he said, “The virus is going to infect a large number of populations in India. When a large number of people get infected, their bodies will develop natural immunity. They will stop the virus from spreading further by breaking the chain of infections transmitted from one person to another.” “Since I am closely monitoring the situation, I am sure that we are moving towards herd immunity,” he added. 

Studying infection trends in India, he said that most coronavirus cases will be asymptomatic. Patients will recover through natural immunity and vitamin boosting medication suggested by doctors. However, those with existing health conditions could develop severe complications as the virus is shown to aggravate symptoms. 



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