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Is herd immunity the best way to beat coronavirus? Show more Show less

As governments have struggled to kill the spread of the coronavirus, policies have varied. Herd immunity - followed by countries including Sweden - has come under scrutiny. The strategy assumes a large section of the population will inevitably be infected whatever is done. Rather than enforce lockdown measures, herd immunity encourages social distancing in public places. The aim is to have as many low-risk people infected as possible. Immune people cannot infect others. Therefore, the more there are, the faster we kill its exponential growth, and the easier it will be to treat the vulnerable. The WHO has criticised the approach, as have many others. Is the Swedish government correct?

Herd immunity is a risky bet Show more Show less

There are far too many variables to the coronavirus pandemic to have any confidence in the British government's policy of herd immunity.
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The coronavirus could mutate

Just like any other virus, the coronavirus could mutate and become deadlier than it already is.
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coronavirus health

Context

The Argument

Viruses can mutate. As a host’s body starts to fight the virus, it adapts to changes to its environment, such as changing its surface proteins.[1] Mutated viruses bring new and sometimes more severe symptoms. If the coronavirus mutated to withstand the human body’s efforts to get rid of it, then herd immunity would not be effective.

Counter arguments

The chances of the coronavirus mutating are slim. For a virus to evolve, there would need to be several mutations that give the virus an overall environmental advantage.[2] Therefore, there is no need to worry about the effectiveness of herd immunity.

Framing

Premises

[P1] Viruses can mutate to adapt to its environment. [P2] Mutated viruses have more harmful symptoms that could harm a human host more. [P3] Herd immunity would be ineffective with a mutated virus.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P1] Viruses rarely have enough mutations to evolve.

Proponents

Further Reading

References

  1. https://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/faq-how-viruses-mutate-1.780051
  2. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41564-020-0690-4

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This page was last edited on Monday, 25 May 2020 at 13:19 UTC