We are nowhere close to COVID-19 herd immunity, says WHO

Mike Ryan (L), executive director of WHO's Health Emergencies Programme (file image)

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday ruled out the idea that the world could have enough people with antibodies to the coronavirus to be near herd immunity and hamper its spread.

“I think what we can say with certainty is, right now, as a planet, as a global population, we are nowhere close to the levels of immunity required to stop this disease transmitting,” Mike Ryan, the executive director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, said at a press conference.

“And we need to focus on what we can actually do now to suppress transmission and not live in the hope of herd immunity being our salvation. Right now, that is not a solution,” he added.

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Herd immunity, which is the idea that the virus cannot spread widely when there are not enough susceptible people, is achieved when a significant percentage of the population has antibodies either through infection or vaccination.

Ryan added that populations will remain a long way away from herd immunity “in the absence of an effective vaccine.”

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