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The world is far from herd immunity to coronavirus


Police officers near Gyeongbok Palace in Seoul on Aug.15, 2020.


The World Health Organization said Tuesday that the planet is a long way from having achieved herd immunity against the coronavirus, a state in which a sufficient proportion of the population possesses the antibodies to stop the spread.

Herd or herd immunity is generally achieved with vaccination, and most scientists estimate that an outbreak can be prevented if at least 70% of the population has antibodies. However, some experts say that if half the population had immunity, that would have a protective effect.

The WHO emergency chief, Dr. Michael Ryan, rejected that theory Tuesday during a press conference on Tuesday, saying that humanity should not live “in the hope” of achieving herd immunity.

“As a global population, we are nowhere near the levels of immunity required to stop the transmission of this disease,” he said. “This is not a solution, nor is it a solution we should aspire to.”

Most studies to date indicate that only 10% to 20% of people have antibodies.

Dr Bruce Aylward, adviser to the WHO director general, added that a mass immunization campaign with a COVID-19 vaccine should cover much more than 50% of the world’s population.

“We don’t want to be wrong,” he said. “You want to plan for broad coverage, not be seduced by the dangerous suggestion that the (herd immunity threshold) might be low.”