International News Dec 25, 2020 12:19 AM EST

WHO changes definition of 'herd immunity' to only include vaccination, removes community immunity

The WHO changed the definition of 'herd immunity' on their website, eliminating the original position that it could be achieved by the virus spreading through the population.

WHO changes definition of 'herd immunity' to only include vaccination, removes community immunity
Ari Hoffman Seattle, WA
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The World Health Organization (WHO) changed the definition of 'herd immunity' on their website, eliminating the original position that it could be achieved by the virus spreading through the population. The website now states that 'herd immunity' can only come from vaccines.

The WHO website originally said that 'herd immunity' "…happens when a population is immune either through vaccination or immunity developed through previous infection. This means that even people who haven’t been infected, or in whom an infection hasn’t triggered an immune response, they are protected because people around them who are immune can act as buffers between them and an infected person."

However, the WHO’s updated website states that 'herd immunity' can only be achieved by mass vaccination programs and removes the path to immunity through spread of the virus.

Other changes were also made to the site.

The original definition of 'herd immunity' fails to identify the pre-COVID consensus in the medical and scientific communities on how it is achieved. Originally those methods were either by vaccine or by a virus spreading through the population and natural immunity emerges from antibodies produced in response to a virus in enough community members.

The WHO’s updated version insists that herd immunity can only be achieved by mass vaccination programs.

"'Herd immunity', also known as 'population immunity', is a concept used for vaccination, in which a population can be protected from a certain virus if a threshold of vaccination is reached." The website adds, "…'herd immunity' is achieved by protecting people from a virus, not by exposing them to it."

The website continues, "'Herd immunity' exists when a high percentage of the population is vaccinated," removing the original option of "herd immunity" being achieved through community exposure.

The WHO has been criticized since the beginning of the pandemic for regularly changing positions and offering conflicting advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, especially with regards to the necessity of masks, lockdowns and contradictory guidelines. The WHO has also be called out for covering for China’s involvement in the outbreak.

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