Coronavirus

WHO leader warns against herd immunity solution, calls the idea ‘unethical’

“Never in the history of public health has herd immunity been used as a strategy for responding to an outbreak,” he said, calling the strategy “scientifically and ethically problematic.”

In this photo released by WHO, World Health Organisation on Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, wearing a mask to protect against coronavirus, gestures during a special session on the COVID-19 response. (Christopher Black/WHO via AP)

LONDON — The head of the World Health Organization warned against the idea that herd immunity might be a realistic strategy to stop the pandemic, calling such proposals “unethical.”

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press briefing on Monday that health officials typically aim to achieve herd immunity — where the entire population is protected from a virus when the majority are immune — by vaccination. Tedros noted that to obtain herd immunity from measles, for example, about 95% of the population must be vaccinated.

“Herd immunity is achieved by protecting people from a virus, not by exposing them to it,” he said. “Never in the history of public health has herd immunity been used as a strategy for responding to an outbreak,” he said, calling the strategy “scientifically and ethically problematic.”

Advertisement:

Tedros said that WHO estimates less than 10% of the population has any immunity to the coronavirus, meaning the vast majority of the world remains susceptible.

Tedros also noted countries had reported record-high daily figures of COVID-19 to the U.N. health agency for the last four days, citing surges in Europe and the Americas in particular.

Get Boston.com's browser alerts:

Enable breaking news notifications straight to your internet browser.

Jump To Comments

Conversation

This discussion has ended. Please join elsewhere on Boston.com