Herd Immunity vs Herd Mentality


Bigger Pie Forum | Herd Immunity vs Herd Mentality | Guest Contributor
By Guest Contributor: Kelley Williams, Jr.
The last couple of months have seen several new phrases enter the popular lexicon: “social distancing,” “flattening the curve” and “shelter in place” to name a few.  (Somewhere George Orwell is spinning in his grave.)
Another phrase which is not new, but is newly popular, is herd immunity.  Herd immunity is the concept that when an infectious disease is present in any given population (humans, cows, dogs, whatever), it is not necessary to inoculate 100% of the population to prevent the spread of the disease.  Rather, once a critical mass achieves immunity the spread of the disease is effectively halted, and the herd is protected.  (Immunity can be “natural” – you are born with it, or “acquired” – you gain it by inoculation or recovering from the illness itself.)  The scientific and medical literature is replete with fascinating examples of herd immunity.
While it seems most countries in the developed world have taken the approach of “flattening the curve” in response to the threat of COVID-19, that is, limit human interaction regardless of the economic costs and unintended consequences, a few countries have taken a less heavy handed approach.  Sweden is the most visible example of a country that has instead adopted a strategy of herd immunity or allowing the disease to proliferate to more quickly build up immunity.  (In truth, this is an oversimplification of Sweden’s approach, as large gatherings have been banned and universities closed, but by and large Sweden is relying on the common sense of its citizens and has not shut down the economy.)  What I want to focus on in this article is not the merit of Sweden’s approach – time will tell if it was right or wrong for them

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