What will happen if the US adopted herd immunity on Covid-19, and how likely is it going to happen?

Let’s do a quick math: herd immunity requires minimum infection rate of 70%. Take US population as 300 million, so this means 210 million people infected. Assume a minimum mortality rate of 1%, the total number of death will be 2.1 million. However, the prerequisite of the 1% mortality rate are:

  1. No collapse in the medical system
  2. Sufficient supply of materials
  3. Stable social order
  4. Stable economy and stock market and
  5. Efficient government operation

Otherwise mortality rate of almost 10% in Italy would be a reference. After herd immunity was over, will the US still be able to maintain its dominance in the world?

As President Trump mentioned in a press briefing that the U.S. coronavirus death toll could have reached 2.2 million without social distancing restrictions, and it would signal “we all together have done a very good job” if the number was limited to 100,000–200,000.

Take Italy as an example, which is currently closest to herd immunity (according to available truthful data). The Italian population is about 60 million, herd immunity will mean an infection of 42 million, with mortality rate of 10%, the death toll would be 4.2 million. Right now, infection case is about 100,000 in Italy. Considering increased number of testing and asymptomatic cases, a maximum of 6.4 million people may have been infected, which is still far away from 42 million people.

Presently most countries have adopted lockout and the infection curves have flattened. So it may take many years for the infection rate to reach 70%. If lockout was removed, which appears only a matter of time, the real infection curve could head upward again.

On the other hand, what if herd immunity did happen in Italy but not its neighbors like Switzerland, Spain or France? Should they continue to shut down the entire country and build a wall on the border?

Furthermore, human understanding of Covid-19 is still simple and lack of imagination. As the strangest virus in human history, it has refreshed horizons of human beings in just a few months. What if antibody of the virus had a limited duration, the virus mutated, or the virus suddenly disappeared? Hundreds of thousands of people would have died in vain?

The only hope for herd immunity are vaccines and specific medicines, but we all need to prepare for the worst.

A Difference between West and China- Health Maintenance

Maybe it is because of its rich history (3,000+ years) and a medical tradition of almost the same length, Chinese people are more aware of health and the majority of the population have some basic understanding on medicine, particularly Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It is not uncommone to see a senior Chinese lady making comments on someone’s red face and oral ulcer that “he is suffering from Fire flaring upward”, and advise him to “eliminate the Fire”. In fact, Chinese TV broadcast, as well as social media, is inundated with health maintenance programs that are particularly popular among the elderly.

Part of the reason for such more widespread medical knowledge stems from the fact that TCM is a medicine originated more from philosophy than science, which was non-exitent in the ancient past; actually Modern Medical Science did not emerge until beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century, and gained its greatest development in the early 20th century, e.g. after WWII. For example, 30% of deaths were still due to infection at the end of the 19th century; but this figure had fallen to less than 4% by the end of the 20th century.

Therefore, a Chinese patient have better chance of understanding a TCM physician because certain philosohpical concept of TCM is well familiarized among the masses, such as Yin and Yang, Qi and Blood, Cold and Heat, etc. For example, the ‘Fire’ mentioned in the above case is a very well-known concept. On the other hand, a typical Western patient may find it difficult to comprehend, not to mention communicate with a WM doctor. For one thing, it is unlikely that he would even understand the sbstruse terminology uttered from the doctor’s mouth. In sharp contrast, it is not a rare scene that a Chinese patient argues with a TCM physician regarding diagnosis and treatment of his disease, because he thinks he too, knows a thing or two about TCM.

The upside of the relatively easy-to-understand nature of TCM is people are hence more aware of their own well-being, specifically what to do to maintain their health, and what factors or life style to avoid. In fact, almost every adult in China could speak of some regiment they know or hear from media or friends and family that may actually work well if executed, not to mention those who pay particular attention to health maintenance and would know a lot more than average people.