Summary of What Is Herd Immunity and Can It Stop the Coronavirus?

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What Is Herd Immunity and Can It Stop the Coronavirus? summary
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There is a well-known way to stop COVID-19 from spreading unchecked: Have a large enough proportion of people develop immunity to the virus that causes it. The problem is, the only two ways to do so are to discover and widely administer a vaccine or have a whole lot of people get sick. This article explains what “herd immunity” is, how people might impart it, and how they might balance that with keeping people safe in the short term. The article will benefit anyone trying to make sense of the strategies being proposed or implemented to limit the devastation of COVID-19.

About the Author

Antonio Regalado is senior editor for biomedicine for MIT Technology Review.



Three approaches can stop the rapid spread of COVID-19.

With no checks on its spread, COVID-19 could infect 60% of all people by the end of 2020, killing millions in the process. One way to prevent that would be to keep people separate and test them to see if they are harboring the virus that causes the disease. A second would be to develop and administer a vaccine that imparts immunity. The third option involves letting the disease take its course, with infected people either dying or becoming naturally immune and therefore unable to spread the disease.

[Editor’s note: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is an infectious viral respiratory disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) also known as “novel coronavirus.” The disease was first reported...

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