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Is Pakistan Secretly Going Down The ‘Herd Immunity’ Path?

The term ‘herd immunity’ is widely being used in relation to the coronavirus outbreak and the question of easing or lifting of the lockdown.

Some leaders have suggested that it might be a good way to stop or control the spread of the new coronavirus. Herd immunity is also called community immunity and herd or group protection. It happens when so many people in a community become immune to an infectious disease that it stops the disease from spreading. Herd immunity can work against the spread of some diseases. 

This can happen in two ways:

  1. Many people contract the disease and in time build up an immune response to it (natural immunity).
  2. Many people are vaccinated against the disease to achieve immunity.

There are also many reasons why herd immunity won’t yet work to stop or slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2 or Covid-19, the disease caused by an infection of the new coronavirus.

For some diseases, herd immunity can go into effect when 40 percent of the people in a population become immune to the disease, such as through vaccination. But in most cases, 80 to 95 percent of the population must be immune to the disease to stop its spread.

Analysts say that Pakistan is set out to go down the path of herd immunity for its strategy to deal with coronavirus. As extreme right clerics forced the federal government into opening the mosques for congregational prayers, violations being made to the SOPs of mosques have been reported.

Besides the fear of the extreme right, Pakistan also suffers a crumbling economy.  Prime Minister Imran Khan is right to be afraid of economic devastation, but sweeping the healthcare emergency under the rug won’t fix it.

Prime Minister Khan has said this reflects the unique thinking of an independent democratic state. If that is the case, then the people of Pakistanis have become psychologically immune to the threat of the disease, while remaining as vulnerable as ever to becoming infected with the virus.

The acceptance of the populist clergy’s demands is one of several dangerous trade-offs that, by default if not design, is leading Pakistan down the unproven path of “herd immunity”.

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Naya Daur