Monday, July 13, 2020

Herd Immunity? Not So Much

I've made my share of mistakes regarding the Covid19 pandemic--being slow to realize the demographic/age profile comes to mind. OTOH, I've always been a herd immunity skeptic, for two basic reasons:

1. The 10 minute/6 feet guideline (and, yes, the distance is disputed) that was put forward very early on was, to me, a strong suggestion that this viral disease was not as readily transmitted as many feared. The fact that it still remains largely concentrated geographically to relatively congested human environments seems to me to be a confirmation of that.

2. It is well known that while antibodies to other corona viruses--such as the common cold--are readily developed by human subjects, they tend to be short lived.

Now, studies are starting to come out that are tending to confirm that SARS-Cov-2 antibodies only last for 2-3 months. Via Zerohedge:

A new study from China showed that antibodies faded quickly in both asymptomatic and symptomatic COVID-19 patients during convalescence, raising questions about whether the illness leads to any lasting immunity to the virus afterward.
The study, which focused on 37 asymptomatic and 37 symptomatic patients, showed that more than 90% of both groups showed steep declines in levels of SARS-COV-2–specific immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies within 2 to 3 months after onset of infection, according to a report published yesterday in Nature Medicine. Further, 40% of the asymptomatic group tested negative for IgG antibodies 8 weeks after they were released from isolation.

The Miami Herald reported on a study from Spain:

A large study from Spain showed that antibodies can disappear weeks after people have tested positive, causing some to question how possible it will be to attain herd immunity. 
A study published in medical journal Lancet showed 14% of people who tested positive for antibodies no longer had antibodies weeks later.

And there's more, here.

Who was it who thought it was a good idea to run gain-of-function research on corona viruses in a Captain Ahab like quest for a vaccine--and who, when the research was shut down in the US as too dangerous, paid to have it taken up again in China, a country with a dismal lab safety record? Yes, that was our own Anthony Fauci. Let's have some accountability, why not?

In the meantime, because accountability for malfeasance seems not to be such a thing in the US any more, perhaps we need to come to terms with this virus. The best hope seems to be that the virus may be weakening and may turn into something like the most common human corona virus, the common cold. There are medicines that hold out some promise, too, and we need to keep up that research. But vaccines? That's almost certainly a pipe dream. In the meantime, we need to find ways to live our lives while taking sensible, targeted precautions.


  1. There is more to immunity than antibodies. T lymphoctes with activity against specific organisms persist for many years within humans. These are cells which are important for long term immunity. Regarding corona-viruses, there are indications of cross-reactivity regarding those associated with the common cold & SAR-COV-2. See:

    1. Would you like to compare the studies and draw conclusions?

    2. Only in the sense that we are dealing with a coronavirus, & that there is now experimental evidence of cross reactivity between activated T lymphocytes among the various coronaviruses. This would be a ready explanation as to why some people never contact SAR-COV-2 & why some who do are asymptomatic/minimally symptomatic, because many people would possess activated T lymphocytes against coronaviruses. This could be extended as to why SAR-COV-2 has no significant effect in childhood, since this group is the one who has the highest incidence of the common cold & would therefore be expected to have the highest levels of activated T lymphocytes against coronaviruses. In contrast, population subgroups far removed in time from the pool of the circulating common cold, such as elderly in nursing homes having no contact with children, would be more likely to have lost their activated T lymphocyte populations & thus be at a great risk.

      Herd immunity in the case of coronaviruses would need to take this into consideration as well. If you remember the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was quarantined at sea for weeks because of SAR-COV-2 outbreak, only 17% of the passengers became infected in a setting wherein nearly everyone was surely exposed (common ventilation system, corridors, eating facilities, circulating employees, etc.). Cross reactivity of activated T lymphocytes against coronaviruses had to be a factor.

    3. But part of the Diamond Princess mystery was that the population was disproportionately elderly, so presumably low re activated T lymphocytes.

    4. But they aren't people confined to nursing homes or in settings with minimal public contact. Cruise ship people are outgoing, gregarious & active, with much public contact via swimming pools, movie & show theaters, bars & restaurants, common tours, etc.

    5. Here's a new paper discussing T lymphocytes, long term immunity & cross-reactivity among coronaviruses. People infected with SARS-NP in 2003 still, after 17 years, possessed T lymphocyes which were strongly active against SARS-NP as well as the current SARS-COV-2 (COVID-19). Also among people with no history of either SARS-NP or SARS-COV-2, it was frequently observed that subjects possessed T lymphocytes with cross-reactivity to SARS-COV-2, but in this case, the activity was directed to different protein molecules. The numbers were small in this study, but it demonstrates that there is a population of people who have T lymphocytes from 'non-specific' coronavirus infections (common cold) which will cross-react and act against SARS-COV-2.

    6. Interesting. And hopeful.

      Strictly anecdotally, my wife and I, back in early to mid January, experienced the worst cold we could remember ever having. It left us exhausted for several weeks, unlike we had experienced before.

      Makes us wonder ...

      But it probably didn't hurt us heading into the pandemic.

  2. My non-medical conclusion is that we're all going to die of something, someday, but probably not Covid-19 and probably not today. Healthy people under 60 are at low risk and healthy people under 50 are at very low risk, so we should protect the most vulnerable and get on with our lives. It's time. Living means more than just having a pulse. My opinion.

    1. It's a healthy opinion. No need for a second opinion.

  3. Worrisome on the study results.

    I wish we knew more on:

    - Sweden
    - hydroxychloroquine with zinc
    - why the huge drop in death rate
    - Why some people get sicker than others
    - Improvements in treatment
    - why some states are doing better than others

    1. Given that complete hysteria is now the new normal in America, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (1851-54) might be worth a revisit, especially since climate change and COVID19 hysteria are going to show up in the revised (2022) edition.

      We put 40 million people out of work--for no reason. We destroyed countless businesses--for no reason. Know what the best part is?

      We keep doing it!

      Masks--do masks, the kind people wear when they're walking the dog, even work? Social distancing. 6 feet. Why not 10? 7? 11? COVID causes meningitis. Really? COVID permanently damages the heart muscle. How would they know? COVID makes tomatoes grow. That, at least, is true.

      Now we're testing upwards of 700,000 people a day, for a virus that has killed 138,000, over a period of roughly 6 months, in a nation of 331,000,000.

      Well, nobody ever said Americans could count.

      How many people have the virus? We have no idea! 3.5 million, or it could be ten times or maybe 20 times that. We don't know.

      If herd immunity isn't going to happen, and a vaccine is as likely as cold fusion, what exactly are we waiting for? Godot?

  4. Good article - with massive use hcq would end Pandemic

    Amazing this is not being done, or may be it’s being done quietly, hence the low death rates?

  5. Live your life like you always have, flu or no flu. We live in a fallen world; people get sick; people eventually die. To not recognize this and get on with your life is folly, both individually and as a society.