The U.K. backed off on herd immunity. To beat COVID-19, we’ll ultimately need it.
Widespread immunity is essential for a successful vaccine, but establishing it could be difficult for the new coronavirus.
While countries around the world began to lock down workplaces, schools, and public gatherings in response to the rapidly spreading coronavirus, the United Kingdom’s initial strategy sent many into an uproar.
At first, the U.K. chose not to shut down large gatherings or introduce stringent social distancing measures. In a plan that surprised many in the medical community, officials instead described a plan to suppress the virus through gradual restrictions, rather than trying to stamp it out entirely.
The strategy, an attempt to build “herd immunity,” involved allowing “enough of us who are going to get mild illness to become immune,” Sir Patrick Vallance, the U.K. government’s chief scientific adviser, told Sky News on March 13.
If the risks of COVID-19 were not