Tuesday, March 21, 2023 | Sha'ban 28, 1444 H
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Real Corona immunity!

Not long ago, the world held out hope for herd immunity or community immunity. So that the population will eventually reach a certain level of protection enough to eliminate the outbreak for good. However, months ago, experts might have assumed that once 60 to 90 per cent of people were infected, vaccinated or not, the virus would simply run out and disappear.

Perhaps that would be an oversimplification! Our immunity indeed works against the most dangerous forms, especially if they are acquired by vaccinations. But our immune and defence shields as humans are not robust enough to prevent long-term spreads and the virus – if I could say – still finds cracks in our immune blockade.

Here I am certainly not going to say, that our immune protection is useless. The types of immunity most relevant to the current pandemic era dampen the frequency and intensity of future waves, rather than obliterating them.

If the classic herd immunity – if I may say so – is a silencer, then the first thing we have to replace it with is a mild herd immunity – a silencer whose effects gradually accumulate -it can still be enhanced with effort and time. As immunity builds up and then wanes, transmission can be reduced but not completely blocked. There is really no clear line that defines the post-crisis phase.

On the other hand, in the absence of that complete immunity, there can be no sharp line between people who have been infected in the past and people who will be infected in the future. Especially since immunity recedes and flows normally, better vaccines will come that will help the anti-infective immunity to stay longer. But until then, another variant could arrive, a massive and different departure from both Omicron and our current vaccines and might reset our immune landscape.

As such, we do not forget that even in the absence of a complete change, the coronavirus has a lot of tricks to continue spreading, as it was, for example in South Africa, where cases were again ticking!

And here we must realize that the gradual nature of immunity to this virus is exactly the reason why the world feels motivated to continue building it. Hence, the higher the immunity to the circulating strain, the better. The longer it takes for the virus to spread, even if the infection continues to occur, it does not have to occur as frequently as it is now.

In the end, all this requires a kind of balance from societies and work to achieve and maintain it, especially since antibody levels decline over time and new mutations appear. Off course, this is the difference between recognizing the infection as somewhat typical and rejecting it as normal, between recognizing that this virus is part of our future lives and calling ourselves to surrender completely to it!

Dr Yousuf Ali Al Mulla is a physician, medical innovator and a writer.

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