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What is Herd Immunity Meaning? - Herd Immunity Explained

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4 Oct 21
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What is Herd Immunity?

Herd immunity (also called community immunity) is the protection achieved from diseases caused by germs (such as bacteria, viruses, etc), when a high percentage of the community is immune to that disease. Herd immunity does not mean that every single individual is immune, but the community as a whole has protection. This happens as there are fewer people who are at high risk.

How do We Achieve Herd Immunity?

You can achieve herd immunity by either vaccinating a large percentage of the population or by acquiring immunity through natural infection. Achieving 'herd immunity' by getting vaccinated is a better alternative, as obtaining immunity by natural infection can result in unnecessary infections and even deaths.

  • When you take a vaccine, your immune system forms proteins that fight germs, called ‘antibodies’. Antibodies are also formed by the body during natural infection, but infection by a germ can make you sick.

  • People who are vaccinated against a particular disease, get protection from that disease and do not pass the infection to others. This prevents the passing of the infection from person to person.

  • Even people who are not vaccinated (like newborn babies or those with long term illnesses) get some protection as the disease is not able to spread freely within the community.

  • The proportion of the population that must be vaccinated against COVID-19 to begin inducing herd immunity is not known. This is an important area of research and will likely vary according to the community, the vaccine, the population prioritised for vaccination, and other factors.

Does Herd Immunity Work?

The reproduction number (R0) tells you the average number of people that a single person with the virus can infect. The higher the R0, the more people need to be immune to achieve herd immunity.

In other words, for achieving herd immunity, there must be a percentage of people who need to be immune against the disease. This percentage varies from disease to disease. For example, to achieve herd immunity against measles, 95% of the population should be vaccinated. The remaining 5% will be protected by the fact that measles will not spread among those who are vaccinated. For polio, this percentage is about 80%.

Can We Achieve Herd Immunity for COVID-19?

Among the deadly diseases seen across the world, the very recent yet powerful health issue - coronavirus - is a matter of concern for all governments across the globe. Scientists around the world are still trying to understand and find an immunity against COVID-19. It is still not fully understood what percentage of the population is immune and how long the COVID-19 immunity lasts. It is predicted that if vaccines could provide lifelong, fail-proof protection against COVID-19 infection, around 60-72% of people should be vaccinated to establish herd immunity. But at 80% effectiveness in preventing infection, 75-90% of people would need to be vaccinated. This explains the severity of the disease and the efforts the world would have to take to achieve herd immunity for COVID-19.

Final Thought

Herd immunity works by preventing the person-to-person spread of the infection. To achieve herd immunity, it is important to vaccinate a large percentage of the community. Therefore, to achieve herd immunity against COVID-19, you should get vaccinated as early as possible. Moreover, keeping a timely check on your immunity is also very important. This way you know what you need to be careful about and can take necessary precautions on time. Online platforms like Finserv MARKETS allow you to check your immunity by using the immunity score calculator. All you have to do is enter some basic details and you’ll know how immune you are. Besides, staying prepared for the worst also remains a top priority. And, getting a financial cover like health insurance helps achieve this better.

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FAQs on Herd immunity

  • ✔️What is herd immunity?

    Herd immunity is the protection achieved against a disease when a large number of people in a community are immune.

  • ✔️Does herd immunity prevent transmission of the infection?

    Yes, herd immunity prevents the person-to-person spread of the infection, as a large number of people are immune and therefore do not get infected.

  • ✔️Can herd immunity be achieved by vaccination?

    Yes, vaccination is the best way to achieve herd immunity. Protective proteins called antibodies are formed by the body after vaccination. These antibodies fight with infection microbes.

  • ✔️Can we achieve herd immunity against COVID-19?

    Herd immunity against COVID-19 can be achieved if a large number of people in the community are vaccinated against the virus. Therefore, it is important to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible.

  • ✔️Is herd immunity necessary to control a pandemic?

    Yes, herd immunity is necessary to fight the pandemic as a large portion of the community becomes immune to a disease.