Initially, the outlook was generally favourable regarding the availability of a treatment or vaccine for the COVID-19. Now, it seems that some health officials might be considering a risky strategy involving herd immunity. However, given the highly infectious nature of the 2019 novel coronavirus coupled with the fact that there is no cure, experts are hesitant to recommend this approach. In fact, any discussion with a similar idea has been met with controversy around the globe.

Several weeks ago, studies conducted in the Brazilian city of Manaus supposedly hinted that the numbers previously associated with herd immunity might be inaccurate. This came as a surprise to researchers as there were no actions taken by the government at the time due to the lack of resources. Furthermore, the results were generated after healthcare officials increased testing. Many were surprised to learn about the drop in cases which required hospitalisation.

CNN reports that earlier this week, Dr. Scott Atlas of the White House Coronavirus Task Force was called out for supposedly considering a herd immunity plan against SARS-CoV-2. He reportedly denied the allegations against him at a press conference held in Florida and said: "I've never advocated that strategy." Nevertheless, an unnamed source within the administration says otherwise.

It was pointed out that Atlas was purportedly against the proposal to conduct "widespread community testing." Instead, he wanted the government's resources to prioritise the elderly in order to diagnose and treat those who were infected and protect the ones that are free of COVID-19. Moreover, it was also noted that the official wanted the economy and the public to go back to what it was like before the outbreak.

Meanwhile, emergency physician and CNN medical analysts Dr. Leana Wen expressed worry over the possibility of a herd immunity method being approved by the administration. "If we're waiting until 60% to 80% of people have it, we're talking about 200 million-plus Americans getting this -- and at a fatality rate of 1%, let's say, that's 2 million Americans who will die in this effort to try to get herd immunity," she warned.

US surpasses 180,000 virus deaths
Members of the Covid Memorial Project hold American flags in front of the Washington monument to commemorate the victims of the coronavirus. Photo: AFP / Olivier DOULIERY

Sweden remains on the countries that refused to enforce lockdowns ever since the WHO declared COVID-19 as a pandemic. Research shows that herd immunity has barely reached the proposed threshold. On the other hand, leading specialists continue to appeal for the approval of human challenge trials to speed up the development of treatments and vaccines for the 2019 novel coronavirus.