Is omicron bringing us closer to COVID-19 herd immunity?
Experts think the highly transmissible version — or any other variety — is unlikely to cause herd immunity.
Dr. Don Milton of the University of Maryland School of Public Health states, “Herd immunity is a nebulous idea that doesn’t apply to coronavirus.”
Herd immunity occurs when a large portion of a population is immune to a virus, making it difficult for the virus to transmit to people who haven’t been vaccinated or have had a previous infection.
Herd immunity to measles, for example, necessitates the immunization of around 95% of a population. For a variety of reasons, early promises of herd immunity against the coronavirus dissipated.
One is that antibodies produced as a result of accessible vaccinations or past illness deteriorate with time. While immunizations provide excellent protection against serious disease, diminishing antibodies mean that infection is still possible, even for people who have been boosted.
Then there’s the wide range of immunizations available. Fewer than 5% of the population in some low-income nations gets vaccinated. Vaccine reluctance is a problem in developed nations. In many regions, young children are still ineligible.
The virus will continue to change as long as it is disseminated, allowing it to survive and give rise to new forms. Those mutations, such as omicron, may improve their ability to evade the protection provided by vaccinations or an earlier infection.
According to Milton, populations are evolving toward “herd resistance,” where diseases will remain but people will be sufficiently protected that subsequent surges will be less damaging to society.
COVID-19, according to many experts, will eventually become like the flu, causing seasonal outbreaks but not massive epidemics.