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Oxford vaccine chief: Herd immunity with Delta variant mythical

  • Published at 09:30 am August 13th, 2021
Covid-19 vaccine

"We know very clearly with coronavirus that this current variant, the Delta variant, will still infect people who have been vaccinated," he says

Achieving herd immunity despite getting Covid shots is “not a possibility” because of the highly infectious Delta variant of coronavirus, said the developer of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

This means the deadlier variant, which is taking a heavy toll in parts of the world, has changed the equation for herd immunity, reports The Business Insider.

Speaking at a UK parliamentary meeting on August 10, Sir Andrew Pollard said that achieving herd immunity is "not a possibility" now that the Delta variant is circulating. 

"We know very clearly with coronavirus that this current variant, the Delta variant, will still infect people who have been vaccinated, and that does mean that anyone who's still unvaccinated, at some point, will meet the virus," said Pollard, a professor of pediatric infection and immunity at the University of Oxford.

Also Read - Experts: Developing herd immunity a distant possibility for Bangladesh

He said it was unlikely that herd immunity will ever be reached, saying the next variant of the novel coronavirus will be "perhaps even better at transmitting in vaccinated populations."

Some experts had hoped that herd immunity could be reached with Covid-19, as was the case with measles, which is also highly infectious.

Many countries have achieved herd immunity with measles by vaccinating 95% of the population against it, such as the US, where endemic transmission ended in 2000. That is because once a person is vaccinated against measles, they cannot transmit the virus.

With Covid-19, vaccines still fulfill their primary role: protecting against severe disease. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, vaccinated people who catch the Delta variant are 25 times less likely to have a severe case or die. The overwhelming majority who do catch it will have mild or no symptoms.

But growing evidence suggests that, with the Delta variant, fully vaccinated people can still transmit the virus.

Also Read - BSMMU: 98% of Bangladesh's Covid patients infected with Delta variant

"We don't have anything which will stop that transmission to other people," Pollard said.

Israel is a good example of this: Covid-19 cases dropped in the country after it vaccinated about 80% of adults — prompting some to hope that it had reached herd immunity — but the Delta variant has since brought another surge of cases.

What is herd immunity?

It relates to the idea that a high level of immunity to a virus in a population can be achieved by both natural infection (through the forming of antibodies when the body fights a virus) and by vaccination.

The latter method is preferred as vaccines overwhelmingly create immunity without causing illness or adverse health complications, unlike the natural infection route.  

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