Frontline health workers are beginning to question whether or not it would be better to deliberately contract COVID-19 now, in order to build their immunity and better cope with shortages of protective equipment, as well as higher threats of exposure to the virus.
That’s the view of Dr Delaram Taghipour, a preventative medicine resident at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the United States, who’s told ABC America that with a vaccine still at least a year away, some healthcare workers are gambling they’ll only get a mild dose of coronavirus.
But according to Dr Taghipour, it’s not so simple.
“Immunity is an intricate and convoluted experience for your body, and we are only in the infancy stages of understanding the immune response to COVID-19,” she wrote.
“How your immune system gets activated, the length of activation, the magnitude, how it spreads, and whether it stays present in different parts of your body can all differ based on the virus. This may mean that immunity may be temporary, if it exists at all.”
As work continues to find a vaccine, and with US President Donald Trump insisting that he wants the country “opened up and just raring to go by Easter” the idea of “herd immunity” is considered by some as crucial to stopping the spread of coronavirus.
“We still don’t know enough about the way the virus works to know if this is a good idea,” Dr Taghipour wrote.
“Although we still don’t know exactly what percentage of people who get infected die of COVID-19, we do know that if everyone stopped trying to protect themselves from infection, it’s likely that tens of thousands of Americans would die.”
New York is quickly becoming the epicentre for the virus, with Governor Andrew Cuomo saying the state’s hospital system will soon hit breaking point, resulting in many avoidable deaths.
But President Trump argues that “we don’t turn the country off” when the flu hits each year, despite the fact tens of thousands of people die.
Dr Taghipour cautions against a premature push towards herd immunity, saying that America is “completely ill prepared” for mass exposure to COVID-19.
Without a vaccine in place, or any medication to treat those who are infected, she says deliberate mass exposure could be “catastrophic.”
“It would be a better consideration when we have those measures in place, so we can safety handle the influx of new cases,” she wrote.
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