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Why we’re very close to herd immunity

Dr. Marty Makary, professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Bloomberg School of Public Health and Carey School of Business, writes in the Wall Street Journal on the nearness of herd immunity thanks to natural immunity:

Anthony Fauci has been saying that the country needs to vaccinate 70% to 85% of the population to reach herd immunity from Covid-19. But he inexplicably ignores natural immunity. If you account for previous infections, herd immunity is likely close at hand.

Data from the California Department of Public Health, released earlier this month, show that while only 8.7% of the state’s population has ever tested positive for Covid-19, at least 38.5% of the population has antibodies against the novel coronavirus. Those numbers are from Jan. 30 to Feb. 20. Adjusting for cases between now and then, and accounting for the amount of time it takes for the body to make antibodies, we can estimate that as many as half of Californians have natural immunity today. …

[A]fter a year of millions of Covid-19 cases in the U.S., it’s clear that reinfections are rare. Natural immunity is real and shouldn’t be ignored.

Dr. Fauci’s vaccination-only path to herd immunity has significantly influenced the national conversation. KNBC-TV in Los Angeles has a county-by-county vaccine tracker showing a bar graph of the percentage of Californians vaccinated, with the zone 70% to 85% labeled “herd immunity.” Currently, it’s at 26%. The false construct does create a greater urgency for everyone to get vaccinated. But it also creates false justification for continued excessive restrictions on freedom. And it raises the possibility that authorities are misallocating the limited vaccine supply by failing to direct it toward people without natural antibodies.

Is natural immunity lifelong?

This is a very key point — and encouraging:

Some experts claim they don’t talk about natural immunity because we shouldn’t trust it. But a recent Public Health England study found that less than 1% of 6,614 healthcare workers who had Covid-19 developed a reinfection within five months—even though many of them work with Covid patients. Other experts believe natural immunity is powerful.

“Natural immunity after Covid-19 infection is likely lifelong, extrapolating from data on other coronaviruses that cause severe illness, SARS and MERS,” says Monica Gandhi, an infectious-disease physician and professor at the University of California.

Makary’s article hits on points I made at the end of this week’s NC Threat-Free Index:

DHHS lists that as of March 22, 28% of the state population 18+ year of age has been at least partially vaccinated, and that 17.8% of this population has been fully vaccinated. I don’t know how much overlap there is between recoveries and vaccinations. If people [8.4% of the population] who have recovered from the virus (i.e., a natural vaccination) were a completely separate population from those who have been vaccinated, that would suggest that as of March 22, just over 24.2% of the state population was immune.

Even that statistic would likely be vastly undercounting state immunity, given how many mild infections (never diagnosed), exposures fought off due to preexisting immunity, and SARS-CoV-2 infections that people had prior to the virus being officially identified (diagnosed as influenza-like illnesses) there must have been.

Jon Sanders / Research Editor and Senior Fellow, Regulatory Studies

Jon Sanders studies regulatory policy, a veritable kudzu of invasive government and unintended consequences. As director of regulatory studies at the John Locke Foundation, Jo...