Public health strategies that rely on herd immunity to fight the COVID-19 pandemic are one “dangerous fallacy “, alert a group of 80 scientists in an open letter published this Wednesday in the magazine The Lancet.
Allowing the virus to spread among the population sectors with fewer risk factors, while protecting the most vulnerable people, is one way that “is not supported by scientific evidence”, the researchers warn.
“The evidence is very clear: control community infections of COVID-19 is the best way to protect our societies and economies, until effective vaccines and therapeutic methods arrive in the coming months “, consider the signatories of the text.
They include experts in public health, epidemiology, pediatrics, sociology and virology, among other disciplines.
In the text they emphasize that it is not yet clear how long immunity is maintained against the coronavirus after having overcome the disease, and it is also not fully understood who can suffer long-term sequelae.
Betting on group immunity, they argue, can lead to a series of new waves of the pandemic over several years and place the vulnerable population in a situation of risk for an indefinite period of time.
“Practically impossible and very unethical”
Experience already gained during the first wave suggests that it is “virtually impossible and highly unethical to isolate large swaths of society,” argue the researchers, who believe that uncontrolled transmission among young people triggers risk for the rest of the population.
The authors of the letter admit that restrictions in recent months in many countries have led to a “demoralization and loss of confidence” among citizens, which has led some governments to evaluate the possibility of relaxing measures during the second wave, but they emphasize that it is it is essential to control infections “urgently”.
The letter in The Lancet also warns that the lack of measures to contain contagions can jeopardizing the capacity of health systems.
This strategy also involves “an unacceptable burden on healthcare workers, many of whom have died from COVID-19 or suffered trauma as a result of being forced to practice disaster medicine. “
“It is necessary to implement effective measures to suppress and control transmission [del virus], and must be accompanied by financial and social programs “ that cushion the negative consequences of these restrictions, particularly for the most vulnerable sections of the population.