Drosten and colleagues warn against the concept of herd immunity

Remove restrictions and protect a few? Several German virologists think this is not a good idea. Looking at the number of cases in this country, they speak of the beginning of an unchecked spread - and think about a bleak scenario

The Berlin virologist Christian Drosten and other colleagues oppose a corona strategy with herd immunity as a goal."It is with concern that we note that the voices are growing again who are focusing on the natural contamination of large parts of the population with the aim of herd immunity as a strategy for fighting pandemics," says a statement by the Society for Virology (GfV) based in Heidelberg, Drosten was also involved in.

Herd immunity means that a large part of the population has become immune after an infection or vaccination, which means that the virus can no longer spread as well.

Normal life for people with minimal risk of death?

In their text, the virologists refer to the so-called Great Barrington Declaration, written by three researchers from the USA and Great Britain. According to its own website, hundreds of thousands of people have already signed the declaration.

The text states, among other things: “The most empathetic approach, which weighs the risks and benefits of achieving herd immunity, is to allow those at minimal risk of death to live normal lives so that they can obtain immunity through natural infection against the virus while better protecting those most at risk. ”The authors fear that the tough measures will“ cause irreparable harm, disproportionately affecting the underprivileged ”.

It is not just the elderly who need to be isolated

An uncontrolled infection would lead to an escalating increase in deaths, writes the Society for Virology in Heidelberg. Even with strict isolation of older people, there are still other risk groups that are far too numerous, too heterogeneous and, in some cases, undetected to be actively shielded. "An increased risk of a severe course of Covid-19 arises, for example, with obesity, diabetes, cancer, kidney failure, chronic lung disease, liver disease, stroke, after transplants and during pregnancy."

According to the GfV, it is not yet reliably known how long an immunity acquired through an infection will last. Striving for herd immunity without vaccination is unethical as well as medically, socially and thus also economically high-risk.

Herd immunity: Not a strategy against an outbreak

About a week ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned against herd immunity through massive contagion when fighting the corona pandemic. "Never in health care history has herd immunity been used as a strategy against an outbreak, let alone a pandemic," said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The Society for Virology speaks of the "beginning of an exponential spread" with a view to the increasing number of infections in Germany. It goes on to say: "Due to the explosive infection dynamics that we notice in all hotspots across Europe, it is to be feared that, above a certain threshold, control over the infection process will be lost even in previously uncritical regions."

There is a threat of overloading the health systems

If this threshold is exceeded, individual outbreaks can no longer be tracked and strict isolation measures can no longer be taken. An uncontrolled spread to all parts of the population can then no longer be prevented. "It is to be expected that this would lead to a rapid overload of the health systems, which, for example, in Germany alone due to the lack of intensive care staff, could already be the case with well below 20,000 new infections per day."