Why herd immunity to COVID-19 may be closer than we think


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There’s an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal that says we’re closer to herd immunity than we think. He argues that if we look at T cells, the cells that recall past infections, we will find that quite a few people have developed immunity to COVID-19 without ever having had any symptoms.

Mercer Island MD Dr. Gordon Cohen joined Seattle’s Morning News to discuss.

“One of the things that has been largely ignored among all these dire COVID warnings is the fact that COVID cases are down 77% in the last six weeks. So this opinion piece by Dr. Marty Makary, who is a well-known surgeon and public health expert, says that “if a drug reduces cases by 77%, we call it a miracle pill.” So it begs the question: Why is the number of cases plummeting? And it has to do with the different types of immunity that our body has, antibodies versus T cells, ”Dr. Cohen said.

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By that theory, the numbers behind the death rate and infection rate seem to indicate a more widespread herd immunity than originally thought.

“When we do antibody tests, it doesn’t capture these antigen-specific T cells or memory T cells once they are activated by the virus. And it’s quite interesting that he points out that in 2008, 90 years later, it was discovered that people who survived the 1918 Spanish flu had memory T cells that could still produce neutralizing antibodies, “he said.

“So what you’re saying is that one in every 600 Americans has died from COVID-19, which translates to a population death rate of about 0.15%. So that’s the theoretical death rate for COVID-19. But the current fatality rate from COVID-19 infection is 0.23%. So these numbers actually suggest that about two-thirds of the US population has already had the infection (potentially without knowing it). “

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In other words, the test that has been done is testing the antibodies that are currently fighting the infection. Once those antibodies are gone, the T cells are left to remember that infection, and those are the ones that really protect you from future infection. But the tests do not reveal its existence.

“This is how our body develops immunity naturally. But when we test people to see if they respond to the vaccine, we are testing antibodies, we do not test the activity of T cells. So what you have pointed out is by using a variety of mathematical models, it is possible that by April, Based on their math data and what we know about the disease, most of the COVID-19 is gone, ”Dr. Cohen said. .

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