The AP dares to ask: Have we reached herd immunity?

The AP dares to ask: Have we reached herd immunity?
Greg Nash/Pool via AP

It’s a subject that was almost totally verboten among government officials and media talking heads for the past two years. Mentioning the phrase could see you banned from social media platforms amid claims that you were spreading “misinformation.” We’re talking about the dreaded idea of herd immunity, of course. It’s the previously accepted theory that during any outbreak of a virulent disease, sooner or later enough people would survive it and develop their own natural immunity that the spread would slow to a crawl. But this week, the Associated Press spoke to some experts and dipped a toe into the forbidden pool. The full title of the report they published last night is, “Estimated 73% of US now immune to omicron: Is that enough?”

Okay, you voices of reason. Is it?

The omicron wave that assaulted the United States this winter also bolstered its defenses, leaving enough protection against the coronavirus that future spikes will likely require much less — if any — dramatic disruption to society.

Millions of individual Americans’ immune systems now recognize the virus and are primed to fight it off if they encounter omicron, or even another variant.

About half of eligible Americans have received booster shots, there have been nearly 80 million confirmed infections overall and many more infections have never been reported. One influential model uses those factors and others to estimate that 73% of Americans are, for now, immune to omicron, the dominant variant, and that could rise to 80% by mid-March.

The AP still does their best to dance around the subject. They first talk about the higher rates of vaccinations that have been achieved. And they couldn’t help themselves from slipping back to the former party line and taking a shot at the idea of herd immunity.

And there will be future outbreaks. The notion of a “herd immunity” that could stop the virus has slipped away under the harsh reality of new variants, waning immunity, and the rejection of vaccines by some Americans.

Notice how they went so far as to put the phrase in scare quotes, as well as once again blaming the unvaccinated. But in the very next paragraph they debunk their own assertion by saying, “But the coronavirus is no longer new.” When the virus first showed up on our shores, not a single person had ever been exposed to it. Everyone was vulnerable. But now a significant majority of the country is either vaccinated or they survived the virus, some without ever being tested or even realizing they had contracted COVID. As a result, even as the virus mutates, it’s running into some tough sledding as it lands on potential human hosts.

The AP interviewed Ali Mokdad, a professor of health metrics sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle. He declares that the country has changed. Even if we see a new variant and a summer surge in news cases, Mokdad predicts that “cases will go up, but hospitalizations and deaths will not.” I’m sorry (not sorry), but doesn’t that sound like a description of the seasonal flu at this point?

This is something I was saying more than a year ago, though I’m not a doctor and I don’t even play one on television. This isn’t an either/or situation. We’re looking at a combination of medical science and normal human immune response systems. Sooner or later we were always going to reach the point where everyone who was willing to try the vaccines (or was blackmailed into doing so on pain of losing their livelihoods) was going to get it. Pretty much everyone else would eventually contract the virus. Among those, more than 99.7% would survive and go on to produce their own antibodies. Some would die, just like some do nearly every winter from the flu. At the same time, we would finish developing treatments to mitigate the impact on the infected, just as we did with the arrival of Theraflu for the seasonal flu.

Isn’t that where we are right now? Cast stones at me for invoking the phrase if you wish, but we’re about as close to herd immunity as we’re going to get at this point. It’s time to declare the crisis phase of this crap show to be over and return to normal life. And any politicians standing in the way of that transition should be driven from office by angry crowds carrying pitchforks and torches.

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John Sexton 10:00 PM on June 02, 2023