Herd immunity to COVID-19 will take time, says WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan
The chief scientist of World Health Organissation (WHO) Dr Soumya Swaminathan warned that 'herd immunity', or when a large section of the population develops resistance to the disease, is still a long way off and can be sped up by a vaccine.
Swaminathan said that after a few waves of the infection resurfacing humans will get to a stage of natural immunity.
"For this concept of herd immunity, you need 50 to 60 per cent of the population to have this immunity to be actually able to break those chains of transmission. That's much easier to do with a vaccine; we can achieve it faster and without people getting sick and dying. So, it is much better to do it that way, to achieve herd immunity through natural infection. Over a period of time, people will start developing natural immunity," explained Swaminathan.
The scientist warned that at least for the next year or so, the world needs to do everything possible to keep the novel coronavirus at bay while scientists work on vaccines.
When asked about the fearful prospect of never getting a COVID-19 vaccine, Dr Swaminathan admitted that we have to entertain the possibility that we may have to "learn to live with this virus".
Swaminathan is a paediatrician and a globally recognised researcher on tuberculosis and HIV. She was addressing a range of questions on coronavirus vaccines and therapeutics, in a social media live event organised by WHO from Geneva.
The coronavirus has so far claimed over 6.3 lakh lives with more than 15.5 million confirmed cases across the world.