The coronavirus pandemic has only gotten worse in some countries, with increasing numbers of infection rates that continue to surge over time. We already have COVID-19 vaccines at the moment, but people are hoping that the said "herd immunity" can happen in the middle of this catastrophic event.

The word "herd" is not only applicable to groups of hoofed animals. In the case of the ravaging virus, groups of humans are also considered a herd. The public is hoping that as time passes by, more people would grow immune to the novel coronavirus, with or without the vaccine.

The researchers, however, said that the incident could unlikely happen, and now, they noted some ways that can help for the preparation if ever that occurs in the future.

Instability of the Community in terms of Vaccination

In a report by Ars Technica, a large number of American adults are reportedly declining to get vaccinated.

The recent poll conducted by the Pew Research System reveals that 30% of the respondents deny getting COVID-19 jabs. Even though the reported percentage has already decreased, half of it was still on the 'rejecting' level.

Take note that getting a shot does not assure you of being safe against the virus. All vaccines have varying efficacy, so it is not fully guaranteed whether it will work how it's supposed to work on each person.

Some of these are the Pizer and Moderna vaccines, which have 95% efficacy rates, while the newest Johnson & Johnson vaccine only showed 72% efficacy against COVID-19. Moreover, some of these vaccines require two shots, so don't be too confident when you've received your first jab.

Durability

There is a study posted in Nature that found out that reinfection can take place after a year or more after people underwent immunity sterilization. The method will only last for some months so that the possible effect can be short-lived to other people.

The viruses 229E, NL63, OC43, and HKU1 usually emerge during the flu season. They often cling to young children who have a weak immune system, whereas, in adults, these viruses only display 'simple' cold symptoms. Experts believe that we could soon reach this peak, so prioritizing an adult's immune system will be the first.

Read Also: Pfizer vs Moderna: Comparing Two COVID-19 Vaccines from Side Effects to Storage Requirements

Avoid the Herd

Now that we tackle the community, the efficacy of the vaccine, and the durability of humans in terms of combatting the virus, the SARS-CoV-2 could be crawling to the less noticeable but vulnerable community. There is a high chance that those who have immunity from the infection or vaccination could encounter an instance wherein the virus cannot spread any more.

Experts claimed that the chance should be around 70% to achieve herd immunity.

However, in South Africa, the appearance of the new variant, B.1.351, showed that reinfection among vaccinated people could happen. Even though the vaccines' efficacies are noted, they were surpassed by the effects of the virus.

An example of this is Johnson & Johnson, which is 72% efficient for Americans. However, when it was applied to South Africans, the foreign variant only continued to infect more people.

Calculation from the Experts

Peter Piot and Christopher Murray, the authors of this study, have arrived at their rough estimate regarding the coronavirus variants. For instance, the South African variant will become a commanding type of virus due to its immunity against the vaccine.

In the United States, 50% is the recorded preventive transmission of the said variant. It continues to decline to 37.5% if they consider the population of people who do not want to be vaccinated.

It is possible that a spike in COVID-19 cases can happen because the need for the vaccines will be split due to the different variants. While the rise in the infection rates is deemed seasonal, it is also in line with the winter months when people prefer to stay indoors, which could decrease the virus spread.

For Murray and Piot, five strategies could be the key to its possibility. 

  1. Continue campaigns on global vaccination to abolish the virus variants
  2. Persistent tracking of the variants.
  3. Hospital preparedness when winter comes
  4. Transmission reduction
  5. Readying for winter prevention while considering social distancing.

"If new variants continue to appear, winter surges may become the norm. This prospect requires advanced planning and consideration of a range of strategies to mitigate the consequences for communities and health systems, the two experts reminded.

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Written by Joen Coronel

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