Dr Hilary warns herd immunity is way off after new research suggests Covid immunity doesn’t last
The hopes of gaining long term protection from coronavirus has been thrown into doubt after new research has shown that immunity may only last a few months. Research from Imperial College London has discovered a rapid decline in antibodies, particularly in older members of the population.
Studies showed that 6% of the population in June had antibodies but that fell to 4.4% in September. The sharpest fall was seen in the over 75s whose antibodies levels reduced by nearly 40% between these months.
Addressing the latest findings and whether it completely rules out the possibility of herd immunity, Dr Hilary Jones said: "Unfortunately, it looks like herd immunity is a long way off. Those people who have been hoping and relying on the concept of herd immunity, their concerns are going to be certainly heightened after this study.
"This is a big study. 350,000 people tested on numerous occasions to look at their antibody levels and the trouble is, those antibodies that should give protection over Covid-19 wane over a period of time. They wane faster in the more vulnerable groups - the people over 55. The antibodies aren’t there in such a prevalent manner in that age group and they wane quicker. The prevalence of antibodies is greater in the 18-24-year-old age group and they hang open to their antibodies longer."
As the findings raise doubt over the concept of herd immunity, Dr Hilary highlighted the importance of people adhering to the hands, face, space guidelines.
"What it does show is, firstly, we can’t rely on individual or herd immunity, secondly that people who think they’ve had Covid-19 still need to abide by the guidelines - The hands, face, space guidelines and it means even more that we need to have a vaccine to protect us in the future," he said.
On the topic of vaccinations, Dr Hilary spoke about the possibility of people needing repeated injections to protected them from Covid-19 in the future.
"We’ve got to forget that getting Covid-19 will make us immune going forward. The vaccine is a different story. The vaccine does tend to give us a strong immune response according to the trials being done so far. However, those people who have been exposed in the past can’t guarantee that they’re immune. They need to know that they can get reinfected and that they can give the infection to other people."
Referring to the Oxford University vaccine trial, Dr Hilary said: "That is now in phase three clinical trials. That means thousands of volunteers have had the vaccination in different countries around the world and the responses so far are showing that they get a good immune response. We don’t yet know how long it lasts.
"They may have to give this twice a year going forward. But the immune response is good even in people over 55 and that’s really critical because it’s the older age groups who are more vulnerable. If they are getting a strong immune response, that’s good news and it also looks to be safe. So that’s something to look forward to."
Read more on what Dr Hilary Jones thinks about the Covid-19 headlines.