“Herd immunity” is not an answer to a pandemic, remarks health officials

Oct. 15, 2020

Promoting the concept of “herd immunity” as framed in a recently circulated document as an answer to the COVID-19 pandemic is inappropriate, irresponsible and ill-informed, addressed a statement from Thomas File, M.D., FIDSA, President, Infectious Diseases Society of America and Judith Feinberg, M.D., Chair, HIV Medicine Association.

“Community immunity,” or “herd immunity,” a goal of vaccination campaigns, should never come at the cost of planned exposure to infection of millions of additional people as well as the severe illness and preventable deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. To assert that stepping away from the vigilance needed to control the spread of this novel coronavirus and that abdication of efforts to control a pandemic that has overwhelmed health systems worldwide is a “compassionate approach” is profoundly misleading. 

As an association of more than 12,000 frontline infectious diseases scientists, physicians, public health experts, and other health professionals, the Infectious Diseases Society of America and its HIV Medicine Association strongly denounce  the “declaration,” released without data or evidence, that states this crisis can be controlled in the absence of critical public health measures. 

As specialists committed to protecting individual and public health, we have made policy recommendations to curtail the spread of COVID-19 in keeping with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and well established public health principles for the control of an infectious respiratory pandemic. 

These include restricting the size of gatherings, maintaining safe physical distance and wearing masks in any setting where the risk of transmission exists. We recommend minimizing risks of infection by observing strict hygiene and infection control measures that include accurate and accessible testing for the virus, contact tracing and quarantine of those potentially exposed, and isolation of people who have become infected. These recommendations are made to avert preventable infections, illnesses and deaths, minimize the impacts of the pandemic on essential workers, including health care personnel, prevent rising rates of severe illness from overwhelming health care facilities and reduce the spread of disease so that businesses and institutions can safely re-open. We will continue to support those guidelines as long as the spread and impacts of the virus exceed the resources and tools needed to mitigate its threats. 

Infectious Diseases Society of America has the statement

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