WHO: Herd immunity is "immoral"

Who is in charge at the World Health Organization these days and do they really have any science to back up their various guidelines for how we’re supposed to behave during the pandemic? Their latest decree, coming from Tedros Ghebreyesus, states that the concept of herd immunity is not only ineffective but “immoral” and “ethically problematic.” While I’m happy to look into any research that’s available on the subject of viral transmission, one would hope that the information would be presented in a scientific fashion rather than some sort of scolding on the subject of morality. But since this guy is in charge of one of the largest health organizations in the world I suppose we’d better see what he’s going on about this time. (BBC)

The head of the World Health Organization has ruled out a herd immunity response to the pandemic.

Herd immunity occurs when a large portion of a community becomes immune to a disease through vaccinations or through the mass spread of a disease.

Some have argued that coronavirus should be allowed to spread naturally in the absence of a vaccine.

But WHO chief Tedros Ghebreyesus said such an approach was “scientifically and ethically problematic”.

While I would agree from a layman’s point of view that there are certainly risks involved in the herd immunity approach, the rationale this man is citing seems equally problematic. He’s quoted as saying “Herd immunity is achieved by protecting people from a virus, not by exposing them to it.” Stopping people from being exposed to the virus is clearly an admirable goal, but that’s not the definition of herd immunity. People are protected from the virus by having antibodies in their system that will be able to fight it off. One of the ways to achieve that goal absent a viable vaccine is to survive being infected, or at least we’re hoping that’s the case with the novel coronavirus. (The jury is still out on that one because a couple of people may have caught it twice.)

Ghebreyesus goes on in a dramatic fashion to exclaim, “Never in the history of public health has herd immunity been used as a strategy for responding to an outbreak, let alone a pandemic.” Repeating the caveat that I’m not a doctor, is that statement really true? I still recall how people handled measles and chickenpox back in the sixties. When one child came down with one of those diseases, aunts and uncles would intentionally bring all the cousins over to play with them so they could catch it and get it over with. Isn’t that a form of herd immunity?

Also, the good Doctor might want to have a word with the people of Sweden. As you may recall, less than a month ago, while COVID was spiking across almost all of Europe, Sweden had a grand total of fourteen people in ICU beds across the entire country. And they never locked anyone down except for the residents of nursing homes. Granted, they paid a heavy price for it initially with more than 5,000 deaths from the virus, but it’s been looking more and more as if their plan might have actually worked.

In any event, we’ve heard enough conflicting data from the WHO lately to leave our collective heads spinning. Speaking of the lockdown situation, the WHO was supporting lockdowns for most of the summer. But now they’re saying that lockdowns are a bad idea in most cases. Similarly, the organization is telling most people to wear masks. But back in March, they told us that people should avoid wearing masks unless they were actively infected and symptomatic. We’re talking about questions that may literally be the difference between life and death for some people. Can you make up your minds?

I was discussing this with a friend the other day and began doing some digging online. Has anyone actually done a test to determine the efficacy of cloth masks in either preventing the virus from escaping an infected person or blocking it from reaching the respiratory system of a healthy person? There are figures out there for surgical masks, but I couldn’t find a single case of anyone having tested cloth masks. Perhaps Dr. Ghebreyesus knows of some tests that were done and I just couldn’t find them, but if that’s the case it would be nice if he could point to that data for us. As things stand now, the WHO, much like most of the United Nations, is looking like a confused, disorganized mess, issuing all manner of judgments and advisories without being able to explain to us how they reached their conclusions.