Covid reinfections causing difficulties in achieving herd immunity – Dr Anthony

People wearing masks in capital city, Georgetown. [File photo]

Reinfection is a roadblock in achieving herd immunity against COVID-19, and it is linked to the emergence of newer variants that are posing newer challenges.

Over 70,000 persons have been infected locally since COVID-19 was detected in March 2020, and vaccination has since been rolled out countrywide. However, Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony shared on Thursday that since COVID-19 does not operate like a typical virus, the country would be challenged to arrive at herd immunity.

Initially, herd immunity was touted as having 80 to 85 per cent of the population vaccinated against the novel virus. “When you talk about herd immunity, it means that a high percentage of people would have been vaccinated or infected, recovered, and they have enduring immunity afterwards. COVID-19 is not operating like that, because, with newer variants, you get reinfected. That’s a challenge. With reinfection, it’s hard to get that herd immunity. It’s difficult to say. The mere fact that people are getting reinfected shows that, with newer variants, it will be tough to arrive at herd immunity,” he said.

He has advised that, for now, persons should just update their protection with booster doses. “What we will have to do is learn to live with the virus, and, at regular intervals, be boosted with the boosters that are becoming available. That’s one of the reasons they’re now changing to develop bivalent vaccines that would have parts of the ancestral strain and the circulating strain.”

When asked if the Health Ministry would be introducing COVID-19 vaccines in their childhood immunization programme, Dr Anthony posited that this would be possible if the immunity is long-lasting. “The vaccines we currently have would last from four to six months, then you have to be boosted. You’re getting some short-term protecting, but unless that protection is renewed, you are going to have challenges. Unless a pan-coronavirus vaccine is developed that protects you for a long duration, then that type of immunisation would not be possible,” he explained.

While cases, deaths and hospitalisation rates have fallen, an emergency committee at the World Health Organization would determine if the pandemic is still a health emergency after analysing the epidemiological status of COVID.