People leave a COVID-19 assessment centre Saturday, March 14, 2020 in Ottawa. Two Montreal lawyers have applied to trademark COVID-19, a filing that some experts said is unlikely to succeed. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

People leave a COVID-19 assessment centre Saturday, March 14, 2020 in Ottawa. Two Montreal lawyers have applied to trademark COVID-19, a filing that some experts said is unlikely to succeed. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Gaining herd immunity through COVID-19 transmissions ‘ineffective’: B.C.’s top doctor

It’s a model other countries looked at, including the U.K., but is ‘not a strategy that works,’ Dr. Bonnie Henry says

As B.C. reports a downward bending of the curve in daily case counts of COVID-19, health officials have warned that the highly contagious respiratory illness will continue to pose a risk to daily life until a vaccine is created.

The fact of the matter is that the province, like the rest of the world, will see an ebb-and-flow-like model in how the novel coronavirus spreads, health officials have said, based on a number of factors such as the climate, the level of restrictions placed and how people follow – or don’t follow – these rules.

But as both federal health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, and B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, maintain similar messaging that Canadians must adapt to a “new normal,” a growing choir of non-medically knowledgeable voices are questioning why the virus isn’t simply left to run its course, infecting those who are healthy while protecting seniors and those immunocompromised. It’s a strategy known as “herd immunity.”

ALSO READ: As Canada’s COVID-19 case counts slow, deaths climb

The idea is that people contract the virus, with many developing milder symptoms of coughing and a fever, and recover – allowing them to not be at risk of suffering from the virus again. It’s a strategy that health officials in the United Kingdom received international attention for considering in March, before that country saw its peak of COVID-19 cases.

According to statements made at the time by Sir Patrick Vallance, the U.K.’s chief scientific adviser, by allowing people to get the virus during the spring, it would reduce a second peak in the event of a winter resurgence of the virus.

On Saturday (April 18), Henry explained that gaining herd immunity through the transmission of the virus is simply “not a strategy that works,” for a number of reasons.

“The challenge is when you have lots of people become ill with this type of a virus, even young, healthy people will become sick, will need hospitalization, will need ICU [Intensive Care Unit] care and some of them will die,” Henry said.

Herd immunity, also known as herd protection, is created when enough people within a population become vaccinated so that the risk of spreading the disease is lowered to a percentage that offers a measure of protection for those who are not immune.

READ MORE: 70% of Canadians agree with mandatory vaccines for children, poll finds

Without a cure or vaccine, it is up to a person’s immune system to fight COVID-19. While some people can be asymptomatic (no symptoms), or only see mild symptoms from the virus, others run the risk of more severe reactions, such as lung infections.

Henry said that health officials also wouldn’t be able to identify each person at risk – some who may not know they have underlying medical conditions.

She added there would be no way to ensure seniors and other vulnerable people are isolated entirely.

“With a virus that is as infectious as this, that causes this much serious illness … we know that if we let it take its course without trying to do measures to prevent transmission, then you get explosive outbreaks, rapidly increasing numbers of people who get sick,” Henry said, pointing to how Iran and the U.K.’s healthcare systems became overwhelmed by surges of sick people.

“That is not a strategy that works for a virus that has such a high case fatality rate as this one.”

READ MORE: B.C.’s latest COVID-10 modelling shows restrictions flattening curve

Since the novel coronavirus touched down in B.C. in January, 81 people have died (as of April 18), with a majority of those fatalities linked to ongoing outbreaks at long-term care homes. The median age of those who have died is 86.

While Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix have forgone releasing projected death tolls from COVID-19 like other provinces have done, the province has instead focused on modelling projected hospitalizations based on varying degrees of surges in case numbers.

As of April 14, B.C. had 516 vacant critical care beds available, according to the latest data available.

Since then, daily case counts have remained steady while the number of recoveries continue to climb. Most importantly: hospitalizations have dropped to about 120 cases, with roughly 50 of those people in intensive care.

To prepare for a potential onset of COVID-19 cases, Vancouver Coastal Health Authority has taken over the Vancouver Convention Centre and prepared for it to serve as a makeshift hospital. Patients who aren’t suffering from coronavirus-related symptoms would be transported to the convention centre to free up bed spaces at the four hospitals in the region.

WATCH: B.C. health officials create makeshift hospital in case of COVID-19 surge

Based on data released by the province, it’s looking like the convention centre won’t have to be used, for now.

On Friday, Henry and Dix announced a small glimmer of hope that some of the current restrictions in place could be eased or lifted in the middle of May, so long as there is a continued downward trend in new cases.

But people should maintain expectations that it could be some time until all of the restrictions are lifted, Henry warned at the time.

“What we really need is a vaccine and it is going to be some time before we get a vaccine.”

READ MORE: Canada to spend $192M to find vaccine for COVID-19


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

Just Posted

Kierra Smith (Contributed)
Kelowna swimmer headed to Toronto hoping to qualify for Olympics

If she qualifies, it will be Kierra Smith’s second time swimming at the Olympics

Kelowna flags were flown at half-mast after the discovery of a residential school burial site in Kamloops. (File photo)
Central Okanagan school board chair reflects on recent tragedies

Moyra Baxter offers condolenses to residential school victims, slain Muslim family

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

The RCMP presence in Central Okanagan public schools is being reviewed by the board of education. (File photo)
RCMP presence welcomed in Central Okanagan public schools

Staff survey feedback overwhelmingly positive from students, staff and parents

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Jane Linden
KCR: Volunteering keeps you active

Kelowna Community Resources shares stories of its volunteers in a weekly column

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

Most Read