The Great One Speaks

But that’s when the alarm bells ring.

First, I am reliably informed there is no such term as ‘herd immunity’ in public health medicine. The term only exists in veterinary medicine. So this is not a medical, epidemiological or public health declaration in that case.

Then some minor character who runs the World Health Organisation:

The head of the World Health Organization has warned against deliberately allowing coronavirus to spread in the hope of achieving so-called herd immunity, saying the idea is unethical.

“Herd immunity is a concept used for vaccination, in which a population can be protected from a certain virus if a threshold of vaccination is reached,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a virtual press briefing.

For measles, for instance, it is estimated that if 95% of the population is vaccinated, the remaining 5% will also be protected from the spread of the virus. For polio the threshold is estimated at 80%.

“Herd immunity is achieved by protecting people from a virus, not by exposing them to it,” Tedros said. “Never in the history of public health has herd immunity been used as a strategy for responding to an outbreak, let alone a pandemic.”

So, herd immunity is a term used in public health medicine. It is applied to human beings, is not reserved just for animals.

Ho hum.

No, that Snippa is agin’ it and that also the WHO chief is isn’t a defence of Snippa. For the critique isn’t over whether anyone’s agin’ it or not. It’s over the existence of the term and practice.

18 thoughts on “The Great One Speaks”

  1. Surely herd immunity is herd immunity, whether it is aquired by the use of vaccines or by natural exposure to an illness, the effect is the same. The difference is that vaccines are generally harmless whereas getting the illness naturally means that you do actually have to be Ill. In the case of the current epidemic it is possibly fatal. So, I can see the argument that it is unethical to just let people get ill in order for the epidemic to pass. The problem with that is, what is the alternative? We can’t keep quaranteening and isolating ourselves forever. Inevitably any system of isolation will be flawed and people will keep catching the bug. Any attempt to return to normal will then leave us back at square one.

  2. But the Great Sage of Ely has spoken & redefined the term. Now all should fall in behind his wisdom. No doubt Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus will be issuing a grovelling apology in due course.

  3. With this Tedros guy decrying natural “herd immunity” but promoting vaccines, and with the Nabarro guy looking for a middle way from behind a mask whilst socially distanced but not locked down until a vaccine (which may be years away), am I being cynical to think that there must be an ulterior, nay higher, motive? Such as, say, 7 billion shots of vaccine per annum at £10 each = £70 billion a year for Big Pharma. Nobel prizes for the WHO. Think of the gratitude of the exultant masses (well, those who still have a job) in that infection-free, sunlit future.


    PS Why is it called social distancing? Surely we mean physical distancing, eg 2 metres. Isn’t social distancing keeping the daughters of Dukes away from oiks from South London or, say, a Prince away from a minor actor (the approved non-sexist noun, I believe).

  4. The lockdown skeptics are doing themselves few favours using the term ‘herd immunity’. It implies a solution to a problem where everyone mixes with everyone else.
    The gentler and better term is ‘community resistance’ imv. If 15% of the population are doing 85% of the spreading then the virus comes up against resistance at quite low levels of population immunity. This may explain why growth is lower in Brighton, London and a few others where it went deeper in the first wave.
    Tedros fails to get this but the concept is genuine enough.

  5. Presented without further comment, except I suspect this isn’t exactly what the man said – from

    “It is undeniable that bats, such as many other animal groups, present real risks as hosts for potentially dangerous diseases,” says Ricardo Rocha of the University of Porto, Portugal.

    But he points out that when you control for the number of bat species (a whopping 1,400 or more), the number of human-infecting viruses is similar to other mammalian groups, such as birds, domestic animals and rodents.

  6. Bug variants that don’t kill or incapacitate the host have better chances of transmission. So virulence declines naturally over time. Imagine what a state we’d be in if the WHO had its hand on the tiller throughout evolution.

  7. “The lockdown skeptics are doing themselves few favours using the term ‘herd immunity’. It implies a solution to a problem where everyone mixes with everyone else.
    The gentler and better term is ‘community resistance’ ”

    This times 1000. The term ‘herd immunity’ was a PR disaster. It implies (to the stupid and feeble minded at least) that people are being treated like cattle. One has to wonder why no-one thought about the implications of the term at the start. But then it shows how far we have fallen that one cannot use a basic scientific term because of how morons will perceive it.

  8. Herd immunity isn’t a strategy. It is a result. CV-19 will spread thru the population until enough have had it that it doesn’t spread any more.

    It’s what will happen. Regardless of who (WHO?) is for it or against it. Delaying the achievement is destructive. See: Sweden.

  9. “Herd immunity is achieved by protecting people from a virus, not by exposing them to it,”

    Bollocks. c.f. Chickenpox. If there’s an outbreak in a nursery somewhere, it is common to try and ensure that your young children do indeed contract it so that they get it done when they’re small. You really don’t want not to have had the disease then contract it in adulthood when it can be REALLY nasty, rather than itchy and unpleasant for a few days _for the great majority of the population_.

    We don’t lock the economy down and trash the coutnry just to prevent someone undergoing chemotherapy from catching chickenpox.

  10. Bongo – While hoping to get my place on the waiting list for the apoplexy clinic bumped up due to discovering Tedros’ lack of understanding of herd immunity, I noticed your comment re “community resistance”. If I worked in the field, I’d consider that I and my colleagues had the right to continue to use an established technical term that’s existed for around 100 years, I believe. I support Sunetra Gupta saying, at Great Barrington, something along the lines of “I *will* use the term ‘herd immunity'”. What next? Cycles per second being called “Hertz”?

  11. I wonder if, somehow, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus might be prevailed upon to post a comment of clarification on the Tax Research blog about the acceptability of the term herd immunity? Any volunteers to make the approach to TAG, or, ahem, to make the post?

  12. A friend of mine contracted chickenpox in adulthood. He was very ill and hospitalised with it. I remember having chickenpox, measles and mumps as a kid, but those came round pretty naturally via school in the ’50s. Not much fun with the itchy spots and liberal applications of Calamine lotion.

    Before the advent of the Rubella vaccine, and after it was identified as being fairly devastating for unborns, teenage girls used to have Rubella parties to generate immunity. Unethical? I don’t think so given the significant adverse consequences to f(o)etuses of not doing it versus the rare adverse consequences to teenage girls.

    As for Hertz, as a techie from childhood I was irritated by the change at the time, but it was a bit of an outlier with most of the other electromagnetic units being named after famous physicists.

  13. The meeja are now on about some poor bloke who caught the bug twice, ‘proving’ that catching it doesn’t confer immunity. But there have always been unlucky individuals who have caught measles, chicken pox or similar a second time. It doesn’t mean that 99.99% of people who’ve had those disease once won’t have long term immunity.

  14. “Herd immunity is achieved by protecting people from a virus”

    What a maroon. Why doesn’t a minion pull him aside and say, “Hey, Tedros, you’ve got that BACKWARDS.”

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