The human cost of Herd Immunity: Experts predict how many lives would be lost if Pakistan chooses this path

"At least one out of 100 infected people is likely to die in the process."

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In the last few weeks, the Herd Immunity idea blew up in the headlines after the government decided to phase out the lockdown.

Dr. Zafar Mirza, the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health, when asked if the government is going for herd immunity,answered with, “Absolutely not.”

However, speaking to a private TV channel, Zafar Mirza said, “It would be better for the future to have a certain spread of the coronavirus so that people can develop immunity against it.”

Asad Omar, head of the National Command and Operations Center, gave a similar but vague hint. “This is not a government policy, but I think the epidemic can be practically eradicated through vaccines or if 70% of the population develops immunity against it,” he said.

Herd Immunity

BBC Urdu spoke to Dr. Fahim Younus, head of the Department of Infectious Diseases at the University of Maryland in the United States, to explain herd immunity.

Dr. Younus said, “Herd immunity happens when a large part of the population (70%) become immune to a contagious disease that it stops the disease from spreading.”

Speaking about the consequences of herd immunity, Dr. Yunus said, “At least one out of 100 infected people is likely to die in the process. The population of Pakistan is more than 220 million. One percent of Pakistan’s population means 2.2 million people. Can Pakistan afford the loss of 2.2 million lives?”

The head of the department further said polio had been eradicated with the vaccine. He added, “Imagine if there were no polio vaccine and efforts were made to eradicate it through herd immunity, more than 50 percent of the world’s population would be born with disabilities.”

Herd Immunity and the Violation of Human Rights

Human rights organizations and social activists in the country are calling the practice “inhumane.”

Speaking to a source,Human Rights Activist, Dr. Farzana Bari, termed any such move as a “grave violation of human rights by the state.”

Dr. Bari added, “The government should try to stop the spread of the disease through other means implemented around the world instead of collective resistance.”

The government should identify the red zones and lock them down, while business in the rest of the country should continue as usual so as not to stall the wheel of the economy,” Dr. Bari said.

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