WHO: Letting virus spread to reach herd immunity is 'unethical'


As the covid nineteen pandemic has been sucked ever further. into. The deeply tedious culture wars polarizing many Western democracies they gathering climate has been made on behalf of so called herd immunity. This is the fairy which holds that if nature is permitted to take its course, within reason, sufficient antibodies will be distributed among the populace to reduce the viruses spread to a manageable kroll. The World Health Organization has now sat emphatically upon this view who chief Ted, Ross Cabrera's calling herd immunity scientifically, and ethically problematic one joined with more by Dr. Chris Smith. Our Health and science correspondent also virologist Cambridge University. Chris, he calls it scientifically and ethically problematic I. Think the ethical problem is pretty easy to spot, which is that you know a great many people would need to die. What's the actual scientific problem here if you would just taking a brutally utilitarian approach? Well I think really it's a lack of knowledge the moment we think that about ten percent of the world's population. So perhaps even as many as a billion people rounds bit more than ten percent have had the infection, but we don't know, and the reason we don't know is because in order to work out with people have had it or not we have to do antibody tests and antibodies. And you can think of this as the analogy is a bit like footprints left in the snow when you've had an infection, a person who has had it and cleared it no longer has any virus detect, but the footprints of the vars having been there all the antibodies left in your immune response. If you take those antibodies, that's a sure fire marker, you must have encountered whatever the infection is that you're interested in the problem is that it's not clear to us that when we test people for antibodies, all we rarely detecting all the people that have really been infected or have. We missed some have we missed. A few are more people responding in ways where they might antibodies the we're looking for. We just don't know at the moment. So scientifically, we don't really know what we're tackling here. We don't know what the long term consequences of coronavirus infection are. They may be trivial. They may not at least for proportion of people there is this phenomenon dubbed. Long Cove where people have post infection, inflammatory syndromes and symptoms that can go on for months. Now, we don't know what fraction of the population get that or whether certain people are more susceptible to that younger people older people we don't know. So scientifically, medically, there are issues here. If we understood the thing completely you'd say, well, we know exactly what we're getting into. Sign. On the dotted line or not whereas with this, it's a black box. We don't know what's inside on the subject of understanding things completely where are you on the UK's most recent? Of restrictions lay his TIA's and levels. The U. K. seeking to make things clearer because they've been criticisms levelled at the government for having rules that people not even prime minister. An Very Scottish MP's can remember, and as a result, this is leading to confusion transgressions and that's translating into more spread of the virus. So in order to gain a tighter grip on the virus, the outbreaks in various parts of the country, this tiered system has been introduced to on tier two tier three also dubbed medium high, very high risk and the idea is that everybody across. The country has a baseline of medium risk and so anybody who's not in special restrictions at the moment is medium but in other parts of the country where there are special measures needed, you have this way of escalating up to high risk and the threshold is said to be one hundred per hundred thousand people in the population who are affected in order to trigger that escalation and I think part of this is not just that the people everywhere know where they stand they know how prepare for if they're area becomes. A higher risk area local planners can put in place policies but also means that more control can be potentially devolved to local authorities and local actors because there, there's a lot of knowledge on the ground are very skilled people in public health and so on who could work more strategically locally and I think some of these measures do open the door to more of that kind of thing. But again, it's it's produced the usual anticipated reaction of people. As I'm away confused today blame them people are confused there's lots of. Uncertainty and no one likes this sort of change when you've just got used to work in one way and then morals come in and people are obviously trying to to make sense of how exactly this is or isn't going to work the thing that would of course stops or savers from having to try and understand what the government is telling. US would be a vaccine in has been bad news I guess on that front, which is Johnson and Johnson suspending trials of their vaccine. Do we know why that happened? Nobody's worth bearing in mind that this happens all the time. When we're developing drugs, foams, companies go into the drug development vaccine manufacturing process expecting to fail ninety percent of the time not because they're not good at what they do. It's because they're very good at what they do that they succeed ten percent of the time, but it's a very tough. Challenge with very rigorous standards and west safety is an absolute priorities of red line that you can't cross safety and ethics. So as soon as you have a trial running if there's anything untoward, the the safe thing to do that point is you hope the trial you investigate and you appoint somebody independent of the trial who is an independent observer who will Come, in they would appraise the situation and then they'll cite note we can. We can say this is not because of the drug this is because of natural occurrences something you can resume your trial but on safety grounds, you always hope thing investigate and then make a decision and this happens a lot to happen to Astra Zeneca a couple of months ago. A month or so ago with with their co vaccine and investigators came end, they found that there were cases reported. There was a new case of a of a condition transverse lightest, which is an inflammatory condition of the central nervous system. They were able to say, well, because this happened sporadically in the population, there's no reason to suspect that this was caused. By the vaccine in this case. So we'll resume the trial. It may be that this the same will happen for. Johnson. And Johnson's vaccine trial. So is there any consensus really among you and your fellow boffins about likely timeframe for vaccine will I've asked a couple of people this one person who is working on behalf of one of the regulators to keep. Tabs on one of the vaccine projects. Another person who's actually in the finance sector has been having conversations with the pharmaceutical companies at the front runner in this and both interestingly guy very similar time windows suggesting that about of next year was the most likely time by which we would have data assuming that the data that is provided are provided shows. The vaccines work I mean. Let's assume that because that's a big. If an it's necessary if assuming everything works, then you've got to go through various checks and balances and take a lot of boxes from a safety point of view which takes time and so that's why they're saying probably midway through next year, and then there's the whole issue of WHO's going. To get vaccinated because in a report in the Financial Times last week Kate. Bingham who's the vaccine taskforce lead said an acknowledged that about thirty million people are front runners for receiving vaccines. But where does that leave the other thirty five, million not? No, no information has been provided. Yes. On on what the government strategy is going to be.

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