Scientists urge people not to rely on the fact that your neighbors have been vaccinated as they warned that it would be “next to impossible” for the UK to achieve herd immunity to Covid-19.
University of East Anglia Professor Paul Hunter and his colleague Alastair Grant have warned that herd immunity cannot be achieved through natural infections or through the Pfizer / BioNTech and AstraZeneca vaccine program.
Prof. Hunter told Radio 4’s Today program that vaccines would allow large sections of society to return to near normal life, but those who refuse to take a sting are not protected by herd immunity.
He said, “The introduction of the vaccine will make a huge difference and allow us to relax many of the restrictions we are currently under and of course as we get closer to spring when the weather gets better, it will help considerably.
“I think there are two main problems. The first is that if you are unsure whether you want the vaccine or not you cannot rely on your neighbors to have been vaccinated – and especially if you are a vulnerable person. Please, please, please, make sure you go and get yourself vaccinated. “
He said the second problem is that those who haven’t had a vaccine are at continued risk from coronavirus, especially next winter.
Prof. Hunter said it was necessary “to make sure we have proper tracking and tracing systems in place so that we can spot where local outbreaks are occurring early enough to stop them.
“This is something that happens with measles … certain low-intake communities of measles vaccines can suddenly have very bad, very severe measles outbreaks, and you need to make sure we have systems in place to detect them early and they are becoming real problems for those affected . “
Prof. Hunter said it was “next to impossible” to achieve herd immunity with the vaccines or through a naturally acquired infection.
While vaccines have been “very good at stopping people from getting serious illness and dying,” they suppress the spread of infections to other people, but they don’t stop them completely.
“There will continue to be a risk for those people who are not vaccinated,” he said.
The UEA study suggests that everyone, including children, would need to be vaccinated with the “more effective” Pfizer shock in order for the UK to achieve herd immunity.
Coronavirus vaccines are not approved for use in children, but studies in young people are continuing.
The scientists recommend that all health and social care professionals be vaccinated with either Pfizer or Moderna shocks, both of which have been found to be around 95% effective in clinical studies, to prevent patients and vulnerable people from becoming infected.
The researchers used mathematical models to assess how effective Oxford and Pfizer vaccines would be in lowering coronavirus (R) reproductive numbers.
R is the number of people an infected person passes a virus to on average.
Initial results showed that 69% of the population would need the Pfizer shock or 93% the Oxford vaccine to get the R number below 1.
However, when the researchers considered the highly communicable British variant, they found that vaccinating the entire British population with the Oxford stitch would only reduce the R-value to 1.3.
Prof. Grant said the combination of “relatively poor headline effectiveness and limited effect on asymptomatic infections” means that the Oxford vaccine “cannot bring us to herd immunity, even if the entire population is immunized.”
He said, “For this reason, we recommend that health and social workers and others who have many contacts with those at risk of infection receive one of the mRNA vaccines as a preference.
“The Oxford vaccine will undoubtedly be an important control measure, but unless changes to the dosage regimen do not increase its effectiveness, it is unlikely that the virus will be fully controlled or that the UK population will be herd immunized.”