Prof Devi Sridhar: Herd immunity a 'minority view' which shows 'complete disrespect' for young people

Some scientists argue herd immunity is the best way to deal with Covid-19.

Professor Devi Sridhar has said herd immunity is not the way forward in tackling Covid-19
Professor Devi Sridhar has said herd immunity is not the way forward in tackling Covid-19
Professor Devi Sridhar has said herd immunity is not the way forward in tackling Covid-19

Allowing Covid-19 to run rampant through the young and those judged not at risk from dying from the virus would show “complete disrespect” to young people and is the wrong strategy for tackling coronavirus, a leading public health expert has said.

Professor Devi Sridhar, the chair of global public health at Edinburgh University and one of Nicola Sturgeon’s scientific advisers, said the policy of herd immunity was a “minority view” among scientists.

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Herd immunity is the belief a population can be protected from infection if a certain proportion of people (i.e. the herd) have been exposed to it and developed immunity.

The policy was pushed by senior scientific advisers to the UK Government early on in the pandemic before the decision was made to put the country into lockdown.

Speaking on Sky News, Prof Sridhar said many dangerous diseases have been an issue for humanity without us ever developing herd immunity, showing it is not a guaranteed route to success in any case.

She said: “It really is a minority view. I would say the majority of scientists are aligned that maximum suppression of this virus is the optimal strategy.

"There’s a small group of very vocal scientists who are advocating what you could call herd immunity shield the vulnerable but I would just push back and say that we don’t have herd immunity against many infectious diseases that have been a problem for mankind for centuries like plague, cholera, malaria, measles, TB and I could go on.

"We also don’t really understand how best to shield the vulnerable and who are the vulnerable exactly. The elderly we can understand but those with co-morbidities, those who are overweight, and there’s ethical issues about putting people away.

"Reinfection has occurred so just because you get it once doesn’t mean it is over with, you could potentially get it again.

"The last thing is what about ‘long Covid’? This is these young people aged 30 to 59, previously healthy who are now suffering for months with chronic fatigue, heart issues, lung issues.

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"Why would you let a virus go through the young, it just shows complete disrespect for young people to say to them, not only are you going to have to pay for all these furlough packages and all the borrowing that has taken place, you’re also going have to endanger your health by being exposed to the virus and being part of the herd.

"I actually don’t think that is an appropriate way forward.”

Speaking to Channel 4 news, Prof Sridhar added that a functioning test and trace programme was crucial to any Covid-19 response working.

Yesterday it emerged the Scottish Government’s own contact tracing programme has only hired 847 of its promised 2,000 contact tracers.

She said: “The government has to deliver an effective test and tracing programme.

"I truly don’t understand why testing is proving such a problem so many months into the pandemic. We’re nine months from a point where Senegal and South Korea were developing their testing, so why are we not getting test results returned within 24 hours so the tracing teams can do their work?”

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