Herd immunity strategy is back

Herd immunity strategy is back: Ministers hope it will help slow spread of Covid infections among the young, sources say

  • Ministers hope element of herd immunity will slow spread of virus among young
  • The policy of trying to build immunity never been acknowledged by ministers
  • Concept  became so toxic last year Downing Street banned its use in discussions

Ministers hope an ‘element of herd immunity’ will help slow the spread of Covid infections among the young, sources have told the Daily Mail.

The controversial policy of trying to build up immunity by allowing the virus to rip through part of society has never been acknowledged by ministers.

The concept became so toxic last year that Downing Street banned its use in internal government discussions.

Sources told the Mail that Department of Health officials now refer to a strategy of ‘hybrid immunity’, involving vaccinating older, more vulnerable people, combined with a mixture of vaccinations and infections for the young.

People wait to receive their Covid-19 vaccine at the NHS vaccine centre that has been set up at the Millennium Point centre in Birmingham

A Whitehall source said: ‘There is an element of herd immunity in what we are doing. Obviously, the most vulnerable people, including all over-40s, will have been offered both doses by the time we open up. Younger people are less at risk from serious problems with Covid.

‘All adults will have been offered a jab by July 19, but with cases running so high, it is inevitable that some people are going to acquire immunity through infection. It is not so much a policy aim as a consequence of the fact that we are having a third wave.’

Herd immunity is a common concept in science and refers to establishing such a high proportion of the population with antibodies that a virus finds it impossible to spread.

It became controversial last year as the pandemic began when it was realised that letting Covid run through the population would mean hundreds of thousands of deaths.

People talk to healthcare workers before they receive their Covid-19 vaccine in Newcastle

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told reporters yesterday that herd immunity ‘is not a policy goal of the government’. But a senior government adviser said herd immunity was a legitimate aim.

Professor Robert Dingwall, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, told Sky News: ‘It may sound like a hard and callous thing to say, but every person who gets infected is taking us towards that target of a level of population immunity where we are all protected against the most serious infections.’

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