WHO says herd immunity is an ‘unethical’ Covid-19 strategy

CAPE TOWN- The World Health Organization (WHO) chief has warned world leaders against using the principle of “herd immunity” to stem the Covid-19 pandemic as it is scientifically and ethically problematic.

Director-General of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said during a press briefing in Geneva on Monday that, “herd immunity is a concept used for vaccination, in which a population can be protected from a certain virus if a threshold of vaccination is reached”.

He explained that in order to obtain herd immunity from measles for example, about 95 per cent of the population must be vaccinated. However, according to WHO estimates, less than 10 per cent of the global population has any immunity to the coronavirus, leaving the “vast majority” of the world susceptible.

“Herd immunity is achieved by protecting people from a virus, not by exposing them to it. Never in the history of public health has herd immunity been used as a strategy for responding to an outbreak, let alone a pandemic. It is scientifically and ethically problematic,” he said.


Tedros said that by allowing the virus to circulate unchecked will most likely lead to unnecessary infections, suffering & death.

“Although older adults and those with underlying conditions are most at risk of severe disease and death, they aren’t the only ones at risk. People of all ages have died,” he said.

There is lack of information on the development of immunity to Covid-19, he said, including how strong the immune response is and how long antibodies remain in the body.

“We’re only beginning to understand the long-term health impacts among people with Covid-19. I have met with patient groups suffering with what is now being described as ‘long Covid’ to understand their suffering and needs so we can advance research and rehabilitation.”

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