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Research from Spain suggest Herd Immunity Does Not Work

8 Jul 2020

An extensive Spanish study, published this week in the medical journal "The Lancet," found that only 5% of the country's population developed antibodies to the coronavirus. This finding reinforces the belief that "herd vaccination" for COVID-19 is not achievable. The findings show that 95% of Spain's population remains vulnerable to the virus.

Herd immunity is achieved when most of the population is infected with a virus or a bacterium or vaccinated with an external vaccine, and antibodies that stop their spread develop. In the study in question, Spanish researchers examined 61,000 civilians - the largest group of subjects sampled in a serological study of the Coronavirus in Europe.

In the study's conclusions, the researchers also referred to Swiss research results published in the journal in early June and included 2,766 subjects.

Similar studies have been carried out in China and the United States, and also found that most of the population was not exposed to the Coronavirus - even in places where there was a widespread outbreak. "The findings show that a herd approach to herd immunity and the spread of the virus without control is not only unethical but also impossible," explains researcher Isabella Akerel, head of the Geneva Viral Disease Center.

In fact, many researchers are not at all sure that a patient who has developed an antibody to the coronavirus cannot get infected again. "It is not yet clear how antibodies protect against the virus," explains Benjamin Meyer, a virologist at the University of Geneva.

As part of the study, Spanish researchers began sampling the population in April, during a total closure introduced in the country. "The results of the study and the low rate of antibodies can be a case study for the rest of the world. Herd immunity cannot occur without serious damage to many deaths and health systems collapse," the study said.

"Experts speculate that herd immunity is achieved when at least 60% of the population develops antibodies to the virus," explains the research leader and head of Spain's National Center for Epidemiology. "Nevertheless, we are very far from reaching such a rate of infection." This is despite the fact that Spain is among the European countries most severely affected by the Coronavirus - with 28,000 deaths and 250,000 infections.

The preliminary results, which relate to the period between April 27 and May 11, show that despite the severe blow to the country, only 5% of the population developed antibodies. In Madrid, the area where most of the infections occurred, 10% of the population developed antibodies. In addition, in Barcelona, only 7% developed antibodies.

The results of the second study were published on June 4, showing that 5.2% of the population developed antibodies - slightly more than the initial study. The results of the third and final study were published this week, showing that despite the continuing infection in Spain, the proportion of civilians who developed antibodies remains the same and stands at 5.2%.