Health authorities are getting closer to stop the COVID-19 with every single vaccine. The long-waited shots are a game-changer, but the amount of concern moved to the healthcare system that is ready to collapse anytime while the vulnerable groups still need extra medical care.
The restrictions, discomfort, and the weakened economy will be at ease again once the most exposed groups (the people with chronic problems and the aged groups) receive the shot. The government goal is to establish herd immunity through vaccination, a target that loses from sight a single aspect- the convalescent natural immunity- and this is especially important for developing countries. Here’s why and what convalescent natural immunity is.
The Importance of Herd Immunity
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization, explained the notion of herd immunity:
“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. In measles, the threshold was 95% of a population, while in polio, the threshold is 80%”
“In other words, herd immunity is achieved by protecting people from a virus, not by exposing them to it. Never in the history of public health has herd immunity been used as a strategy for responding to an outbreak, let alone a pandemic. It is scientifically and ethically problematic.”
The governments whose goal is to obtain herd immunity should not ignore what nature provided for free – the convalescence immunity- that continues to expand worldwide.
The perfect vaccination strategy should push the number of immune people further in the shortest amount of time and simultaneously avoid high risks. However, the shortage of vaccination capacity and the additional costs might burden the goal.
The costs are not a significant burden for most developed countries, but the emerging countries might face hardships regarding financial matters. These being said, the way to reach general immunity in a population and not bury a country in debt is to acknowledge the individuals’ naturally acquired immunity after once contracting the virus. They wouldn’t need artificial immunization if their body was able to fight the virus alone.
Since the number of vaccines is limited, this bit of knowledge can save valuable resources by only taking advantage of the body’s ability to defend itself. The Vaccination Commission, associated to the Robert Koch Institute (STIKO), declared that the individuals previously diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2 by a laboratory test can skip vaccination, being previously endowed with immunity.
Leading journals published many research papers that confirmed the above theory. People can acquire potent and neutralizing antibodies after recovering from an infection, and the antibodies won’t leave the body for at least eight months.
Getting a shot provides the same protection as healing from an infection by yourself. BioNTech CEO and Co-Founder Uğur Şahin declared that probably the vaccine effect persists the same amount of time as the naturally acquired immunization.
The population that naturally became immune is growing in number day by day. COVID-19 is known to be dangerous to vulnerable groups, such as people with chronic diseases or the elderly. But for the young, with no pre-conditions, the coronavirus is a simple flu or asymptomatic experience.
This fact is a turning point for the developing countries with a majority of young population, such as the sub-Saharan countries, where at least half of the population is younger than 25 years of age.
However, even the prevalence of natural immunity is a gold treasure for developing countries; the figures need to be estimated. At first sight, the number depends directly on the number of convalescents. However, the number of unreported cases may be higher than that.
Also, antibody studies show that the people who recovered from infection never produced antibodies in some cases. The healing process depended entirely on the cellular defense.
According to India’s reports, the majority of the population gained the necessary immunity due to a previous COVID-19 infection. Even it is only a speculation, and the figures are overestimated, the natural immunity needs to be “sought, found, certified and utilized” as a “non-negligible” source.
Why Global Vaccination Won’t Work
The governments that won’t consider natural immunity will make things harder for a longer time. The target of exclusively rely on herd immunity gained through vaccination is out of reach, meaning that the pandemic restrictions and weakened economy will continue for months, even years.
On the other hand, the duration of the restrictions will ultimately lead to overpriced vaccines, and the citizen’s interest to vaccinate themselves might fade after a while. Also, the benefits will be lesser. The government’s theory to vaccinate the largest part of a population is not valid because only the high-risk groups require this extra-type of protection.
Additionally, the current vaccines are not yet trusted to be used on children and teenagers, and their immunization is an aspect to be debated. Applying the measures that trust convalescent’s natural immunity is a wiser option as the herd immunity is getting stronger and stronger because of the virus mutations.
The pandemic was a tremendous challenge for the developing country not because of the actual amount of infected but the weak health system and the unwanted secondary effects of the lockdowns.
The biggest’ asset’ of a country is keeping a healthy population because the economy will be ascending and so the life-expectancy. Lock-downs and recessions inflict enormous damage in the long run, and they hit society’s most vulnerable. The education systems are still under uncertainty, which eventually will drown some financial resources. Hopefully, the governments will make the best use of the opportunities they face and minimize the risks. Restoring the reality before the pandemic, where we had the freedom to travel with no restrictions, implies that the governments should guarantee immunization to the vulnerable groups first. It also implies recognizing natural immunity and moving the focus on the elderly and people with pre-conditions.