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Covid-19: Herd immunity is not achievable

- Ozayr Patel with Shabir A. Madhi

Pasha 118: We need to learn to live with COVID-19.

In the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic the phrase “herd immunity” was bandied about a lot by heads of state as well as health officials. This ideal end state was described as the moment when the virus had been beaten, and everyone could return to a normal life.

But a great deal has changed in the intervening months. Firstly, the virus has mutated in ways that make it spread more quickly, and in ways that make it potentially more resistant.

In addition, the unequal distribution of vaccines, combined with slow rollouts in a great many countries as well as vaccine hesitancy, has thrown initial planning off course.

So what’s the alternative?

We must learn to live with the virus. To do this, reaching high levels of vaccination is crucial. This will minimise the number of people being hospitalised and dying from COVID-19. It does not mean that COVID-19 will be gone but it means clusters of outbreaks will be smaller and less damaging to countries. Health facilities will be able to cope better.

In today’s episode of Pasha, Shabir A. Madhi, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences and Professor of Vaccinology at the University of the Witwatersrand, discusses the problems with herd immunity and how to deal with COVID-19 in the long term.