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New Study: “Herd Immunity” impossible because antibodies fade fast

30,000 Michiganders would die under Sen. Shirkey's pandemic plan

As the COVID-19 pandemic rapidly escalates across the country, Republicans have simply given up on fighting the virus. 

During the debate last Thursday, Donald Trump affirmed that Americans would “learn to live with the virus,” and he was later echoed by White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows who asserted that, “We are not going to control the pandemic.”

Senator Mike Shirkey agreed that we should give up in statements to local media asserting that Michigan should go for “herd immunity.” This means that Senator Shirkey believes the right way to approach the virus is to let it run rampant through the population, which public health experts estimate would kill 30,000 Michiganders (primarily low-income and people of color). The idea being that after enough people have had the virus, it will stop spreading due to the immunity the survivors would carry.

While the cost of 30,000 lives alone is horrifying, new research indicates that those lives would be lost in vain: herd immunity without a vaccine is likely impossible because humans lose their antibody response to COVID-19 rapidly.

The study, conducted by the Imperial College of London, tested for COVID-19 antibodies. In June they found that 6% of the British population had antibodies. In September, they found that only 4.4% did, a shocking 25% decline. How could a smaller proportion of the population have immunity 3 months later when more people had been getting infected during that time?

The most likely answer is that humans lose our acquired immunity to COVID-19 relatively quickly, sometimes in weeks or months. This intuitively makes sense: other coronaviruses, like the seasonal flu and common cold, return every year because our immunity is similarly short-lived.

“Sen. Shirkey’s plan for 'herd immunity' is more about trying to cull the herd than protecting it,” said Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, former Director of the Detroit Health Department, “30,000 Michiganders could die, and we'll be right back where we started. Trying to rely on herd immunity without a vaccine is giving up on saving lives under the guise of pretending like you’re helping.”

Michigan People's Campaign instead urges Senator Shirkey to work with Governor Whitmer to reinstate common-sense health measures, such as mandatory mask-wearing in public, limiting the size of gatherings and limiting the capacity of indoor businesses. Furthermore, the legislature should adequately fund a massive contact tracing and isolation program to stamp out the virus until a vaccine is ready.

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