Authorities in Canada have closed schools and all non-essential travel, limited all non-essential travel, and urged the public to use physical distance to curb the spread of COVID-19 and give researchers time to develop a vaccine.
But, if scientists fail to create a vaccine, the country will need to develop what is called natural herd immunity to end the pandemic.
What is collective immunity and what does it mean for COVID-19? Here’s what the experts say.
What is collective immunity?
“The idea of collective immunity is that you have enough immunized people in the population [to a virus] and you’re either immune because you’ve had the infection before, or you’ve been vaccinated, “said Dr. Jeff Kwong, infectious disease specialist and associate professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Toronto.
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Kwong said that if you have enough immune people in the population, the infection will not spread as easily.
“Or ideally, it will not spread at all,” he said.
Dr. Suzanne Sicchia, Associate Professor at the Interdisciplinary Center for Health and Society at the University of Toronto Scarborough, said that the higher the proportion of people in the population who have natural or vaccine-based immunity against a given infectious disease , the fewer people there were that the microorganism or pathogen could infect.
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“In this way, collective immunity can help eliminate the infectious agent in a particular population, “she wrote in an email to Global News.
Sicchia noted, however, that elimination is not the same thing as eradication.
“Elimination can be for a period of time while eradication refers to the complete elimination of a disease from a region or the world. “
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According to Sicchia, Canada has developed collective immunity against other viruses.
“Collective immunity occurs whenever a LARGE portion of the population has been vaccinated, for example,” she wrote. “And of course, we have eradicated smallpox and polio!” “
Collective immunity and COVID-19
Since the start of the new coronavirus outbreak, researchers have worked tirelessly to develop a vaccine to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
It is estimated that it will be made available over the next two years.
However, if researchers are unable to successfully develop a vaccine, Kwong said that Canada should develop collective immunity to end the pandemic.
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He said that for this to happen, about half of the country’s population would have to develop immunity.
“So, assuming they are protected after getting the virus once, it will probably be more than 50%,” he said.
But, Kwong said the researchers aren’t sure how long the immunity will last.
“I am not sure anyone knows,” he said. “I think mainly because it is a new virus, we don’t know. ”
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Another unknown, according to Kwong, is the number of people in Canada who may have already developed immunity to the virus.
He said researchers are already working hard to determine exactly what percentage of the population has ever been infected and would be considered protected from COVID-19.
However, it is possible, said Kwong, that even those who have had the virus are not immune.
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” We hope that if you have had the virus, you are considered immune, [but] they may not be, “he said.
“But we don’t know – we just don’t know right now.”
A “serious faux pas”
Some countries – including the United Kingdom – have considered not implementing such measures and have instead considered allowing the virus to spread widely and to develop collective immunity.
Sicchia said the strategy was “completely wrong and dangerous”.
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“To be frank, when [Boris] Johnson went to BBC Newsnight and called for a “nice big epidemic” which they said could “control”, I was dismayed – it would have meant a lot of deaths! “
Kwong also called the idea “dangerous.”
“The idea of flattening the curve is that you don’t allow too many people to get very sick at the same time. “
He said that if more people are sick than the health care system can handle, then “many people die”.
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Sicchia said “fortunately” that the UK has admitted it was a “serious mistake and has changed course”.
According to Sicchia, physical distance as well as other public health measures, including generalized tests, post-travel social isolation and good hand and respiratory hygiene, combined with the strengthening of the health care sector, are the most effective way to end the pandemic.
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The Canadian government released models on Friday suggesting that the first wave of viruses may end this summer.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that based on these projections some measures could be relaxed over the summer, but said Canada could not return to the normal “we had before” until that a vaccine be developed.
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According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, at 11:00 a.m.ET Saturday, there were 22,595 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Canada.
COVID-19 has so far killed 600 people in the country so far.
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