Herd Immunity

As we get  closer to November 3d, Trump and his sycophants are becoming more agitated about polls that show His Orangeness losing.  Those negative polling results rest in significant part on the widespread ( entirely accurate) perception that Trump has failed spectacularly when it comes to protecting the public against the Coronavirus.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that we are now hearing about a vaccine that might be ready on November 1st (that date is just a coincidence, of course), or that we are seeing the White House ramp up efforts  to distract from the sort of  sound, science-based advice being offered by actual experts like Dr. Fauci. One of  the more misleading  messages  emanating from the administration involves promises  about achieving “herd  immunity,” so  today I  thought I’d turn the  bulk of  the  blog over  to my cousin the cardiologist, whom I  often quote on these  matters. (You can read his blog, aimed at debunking “Snake Oil” remedies, here.)

This time, he  addresses the  question: What Is Herd Immunity?

Herd immunity occurs when a high percentage of a given population is immune to a disease, either from having recovered from an infection, or having received a prior vaccination. The end result is the prevention of subsequent outbreaks, or epidemics, of the disease within that population. The exact threshold for herd immunity depends on the specific disease, especially on how easily the disease is spread. Measles, which is highly infectious, requires over 90 percent of the population to produce herd immunity. Meanwhile, influenza can be controlled with a 60 percent level of herd immunity. COVID-19 might be somewhere in the middle: Most experts expect that coronavirus would require 70 to 80 percent protection to achieve this level of immunity.

Herd immunity is typically achieved through a vaccine, such as that for polio, a disease which, just a few decades ago brought justifiable fear to parents that their children would be paralyzed for life. And although isolated cases still occur in many places, a high enough proportion of people are immune through vaccination that epidemics no longer occur. Similar success was obtained with measles, until a misguided anti-vaccination movement has partially upended the desired herd immunity levels.

Originally the term “herd immunity” was employed by immunologists and epidemiologists to describe the percentage of the population that must acquire immunity through receipt of an effective vaccine in order to halt spread of infection. Used by Trump, however, herd immunity is interpreted as the percentage of the population that must acquire immunity by becoming infected to stop the infection from spreading further. This no vaccine approach requires a significant portion of the population to become gravely ill or die (as nearly 200,000 Americans already have) to achieve the same result.

Sadly, a New Coronavirus Adviser, Dr. Scott Atlas, misinforms both the White House and general population with deceptive ideas. Dr. Atlas (a radiologist, not versed in epidemiology or infectious diseases) questions controls like masks. He has angered top health officials by pushing various other disputed policy prescriptions. He argued not only that the science of mask wearing is uncertain, but that children cannot pass on the coronavirus and that the role of the government is not to stamp out the virus but to protect its most vulnerable citizens as Covid-19 takes its course. Ideas like these, scientifically incorrect, have propelled Atlas into President Trump’s White House, where he is pushing to reshape the administration’s response to the pandemic.

Not surprisingly, Trump has embraced Dr. Atlas’s cockamamie ideas, as has Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, even as he upsets the balance of power within the White House coronavirus task force with ideas that top government doctors and scientists like Anthony S. Fauci, Deborah L. Birx and Jerome Adams, the surgeon general, find at best misguided , and at worst, outright dangerous

“I think Trump clearly does not like the advice he was receiving from the people who are the experts — Fauci, Birx, etc. — so he has slowly shifted from their advice to somebody who tells him what he wants to hear,” said Dr. Carlos del Rio, an infectious disease expert at Emory University, who is close to Dr. Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator.

“He (Atlas) has many great ideas,” Mr. Trump told reporters at a White House briefing last month with Dr. Atlas seated feet away. “And he thinks what we’ve done is really good, and now we’ll take it to a new level.”

Let’s all hope that we can prevent this “new level” from materializing until after November, 2020!!


  1. From Marv “the straight shooter”:

    “Herd immunity.” My G-d that’s our answer. After over 50 years of conditioning, we probably have close to a majority of our population totally immune from any semblance of the TRUTH.

    Who could be a better President than Donald Trump? And I’m not joking.

    “Donald, Donald he’s our man, if he can’t do it nobody can.” That’s their cheer. Who can beat a team like that?

  2. America has been “screwed.” I was there at the beginning. No better place than DALLAS. At the time, I guess, I couldn’t believe how bad it would get.

    Gerald, It started with just a little case. And I won it for the McLendon Corporation. However, It was all about a BIG LIE. And the BIG LIES became BIGGER & BIGGER.

  3. Regardless of whom Trump puts out front on the pandemic the majority of the country has not followed and will not follow his lead. Early on as Trump’s lies and blunders became evident, people began making their own decisions about how to protect themselves from the virus. Now, seven months into the pandemic, from my vantage point, most people are wearing masks while in public, doing what they can to social distance, and enduring as best they can. I keep my own spirits up by reminding myself that eventually there will be a vaccine, and there will be a return to the social freedom we had before this horrid year arrived.

  4. If you wanted a WAR AGAINST THE JEWS after the German’s screwed it up. You’d have to come up with something a little different in America. Right? How about A MASKED WAR AGAINST THE JEWS. Now that makes a lot of sense. Doesn’t it? Anyone disagree?

  5. Theresa,

    We’re dealing with two viruses. Hope you’re right about the first. But I’m more concerned about the second virus which George Clooney has recently discussed. It’s the VIRUS OF HATRED which, so far, there hasn’t been any VACCINE discovered.

  6. Trump has no intelligent understanding of the difference between “flu” and Covid-19 or the disastrous effect his ignorance and delayed reaction continues to have on the case count or the death toll. Will his Republican supporters ever realize he is killing off their fellow Republicans (and his potential voters) with his goal of higher profits for his chosen pharmaceutical manufacturers whose primary objective is to provide his drug of choice, hydroxychloroquine? He has ignored actual pharmaceutical companies who virtually begged for approval and funds to create a viable vaccine and handed over millions to such as Kodak who must restructure their facilities and is still in limbo due to allegations of “insider trading” to sell stock in the company before they began any changeover to begin producing and testing. The Stock Market continues to show gains for those who can afford to continue buying stock at low prices to either sell at a profit or gain profits if or when the economy improves; including the corporate health care/pharmaceutical stock.

    The term “herd immunity” would appeal to Trump who views this country as being populated by a “herd” of easily led sheep who are following his Judas goat White Nationalist dictatorship. It is far to late to prevent his Dr. Atlas “new level” following. Trump turned Covid-19 Pandemic control over to state leaders to absolve himself of any and all responsibility and fault for the deadly results just as it may be far too late for those election poll takers to realize that the popular count for Biden over Trump has little value. They are finally beginning to question state level voter control regarding Electoral College members – which the Republicans have been buying up and counting on for another Trump appointment to the presidency. A form of “herd immunity” regarding the reality of our current situation as November 3rd looms closer and closer.

  7. Trump’s Herd Immunity: A herd is an unthinking group that simply ambles after its Pavlovivan bell. Herd Immunity in the era of Trump is how he mesmerizes his followers into believing all his lies, adopting hatred and division, throwing away all principles of Jesus and the New Testament while maintaining they are true “born again Christians,” turning their back on Trump’s philandering and total lack of any ethics, abandoning all reason, and discarding all sense of decency and true patriotism.

  8. Herd Immunity without using vaccines is simply government-sanctioned inter-generational genocide. But MILLIONS of careless youngsters (And/or their parents) are also looking at the possibility of inflicting themselves and others with long-term, and still-largely unknown, chronic effects on the heart, lungs, brain, kidneys, liver and other organs. The social and economic costs could cripple the nation for two generations at a time when it should be dealing with climate change.

  9. Meanwhile, from The Guardian this morning:

    “We are seeing more deaths among African Americans and Latinos than at any time this summer. So as we go into the fall, with schools and colleges reopening and other new avenues for exposure, it portends a very frightening future,” said Andi Egbert, senior researcher with APM Research Lab, the non-partisan research arm of American Public Media that compiles the data.”

    Why aren’t we hearing how this virus is impacting people of color at a higher rate elsewhere? Why isn’t Trump and his “medical advisers” discussing how the virus is hitting people of color at a much higher rate across this country?

    Especially when you consider how the southern states followed suit with Trump and ignored, suppressed, distracted, and then reopened society early in those red states where a large percentage of citizens would be negatively impacted.

    There are no coincidences.

    Here are the actual numbers:

    “The latest figures record that in the two weeks from 4 to 18 August the death rate of African Americans shot up from 80 to 88 per 100,000 population – an increase of 8 per 100,000. By contrast the white population suffered half that increase, from 36 to 40 per 100,000, an increase of 4 per 100,000.

    For Latino Americans the increase was even more stark, rising from 46 to 54 per 100,000 – an increase of 9 per 100,000.”

  10. Actually, Todd, we ARE hearing – daily – about how people of color are experiencing a much higher infection and death rate. I hear it daily on the news I am privy to.

    We will not be able to control COVID and return our economy and society to some new normal that actually works and functions until Trump is replaced with someone who is everything he isn’t and isn’t anything he is. This includes, of course, getting rid of the career criminals masquerading as Republican U.S. Senators and dumping idiots like Louis Gohmert and Kevin McCarthy from the HOUSE.

    Trump’s attacks on our military leaders go without a peep from Republicans. Why? Because they are true, and the spineless Republicans are afraid of being tweet-shamed by Trump. Really. What a collection of fools.

  11. Dr. Atlas should lose his license as a doctor permanently. He’s a radiologist and has no expertise in epidemiology.

  12. So I get coffee at the local Starbucks this morning (a daily ritual) and there are two Evangelical pastors who I have had difficult discussions with in the past, such as why they support Trump.

    So I run in, get my phone order (with mask on) and turn and there are these two, with no masks, grinning from ear to ear next to the door looking at me. I reminded them that the county mandated mask wearing, they held up their masks (still with their shit eating grins) and said, “oh we got em, but we can’t drink our coffee with them on!” I told them “it must be hard to slip the mask below your big mouth as it is a very difficult maneuver!” (sarcasm dripping from my mouth…) and left.

    I have come to the conclusion (actually, many years ago) that Evangelicals (with Falwell senior) brought us Reagan. They brought us Bush junior. Now they bring us Trump Inc. Let me just say how I feel right now: “I DISDAIN EVANGELICALS!!! THEY ARE OBSCENE!!!”

    Speaking of unthinking stupid “herds,” that pretty much sums up unthinking Christians who cling to their superstitions while shoving it down our throats every damn day, as if the virus, the economy and the climate crisis wasn’t enough!

    These ass-hat Evangelicals are the PROTOTYPE stupid herd animals which Trump adores and uses like one of his paid sex workers (assuming he pays them, the jury is, literally, still out on that info…).

    These are the same ones who sink their boats at Travis Lake inn their Trump parade!!! Stupid!!! BTW, I can’t stop laughing about that! Trump wasn’t there to calm the waves and walk on water to pull their sorry asses out! So much for The Chosen One!!!

    I wish we had a vaccine to rid our society of the most dangerous virus in America, millions of predator Evangelicals who have single handedly brought us 3 of the worse Presidents in the 20th and 21st centuries if not of all time!!!

  13. Todd @ 9:01, I had thought of posting that Guardian article also. During the Black Plague of the 14th Century that struck the Eurasian and African landmasses any where from 25% to 60% of the population died. Herd immunity was achieved. Outbreaks of the plague reoccurred afterwards but not as severe.

    It will be interesting as the Anti-Vax movement exists here in America. Will the followers of the Trumpet go off and get their “Trumpet Vaccines”???

    I have been reading both in the Smithsonian and National Geographic about pandemics in general and Corona. The warning bells were out there, like the failing infrastructure of highways, bridges etc., funding was lacking.

    The Trumpet with Pastor Pence dutifully following and kissing The Royal Rear of the Trumpet, brushed off Corona. Corona was not going to be stopped, it could have been mitigated with decisive early action. By it’s very nature “action” implies responsibility for the “action”. The last thing The Trumpet wanted was responsibility. Thus, no effective action was taken at a Federal Level. Pastor Pence and Kushner were there to protect The Trumpet.

    The loyal followers of The Trumpet now want to ignore the mounting casualties from Corona. The latest Right Wing Memes is the Corona death toll is vastly inflated. Of course the Right Wing has no proof the numbers are inflated. If a Meme confirms the bias they already have (it’s a Hoax, or numbers are inflated) – By God it must Be Fact.

    The extreme danger is if the CDC and FDA has enough people that will expose The Trumpet’s miracle cures for the frauds they will be. Without any doubt there will be “experts” The Trumpet will bring out to back him up. Resistance to a Trumpet miracle vaccine will be attributed to people in the “Dark Shadows”.

  14. The disease is bias confirmation. The cause is money. Entertainment media learned decades ago that the secret to make more money now regardless of the impact on any others ever in their racket was audience loyalty. How? Tell them what to believe then reinforce it daily along with pats on the head if they got what you told them yesterday right today. Pavlov taught us that. Most of us with pets have experimented with it. Parents and teachers employ it.

    Trump is an entertainer taking advantage of the crowd training of others in his business. His gig is carrot and stick. Pats on the head and kicks in the ass for those resisting the lesson.

    He not only does it but is addicted to it himself as a result of a privileged amoral life surrounded by sycophants patting his head for money. It’s how Melania made her millions too at the expense of losing her freedom and acquiring a lifetime addiction to bias confirmation.

    Unfortunately for us while he’s good at entertaining he is abysmally bad at everything else. He has avoided learning all of his life because he’s been told by so many that he already knows everything.

    He is what he is consistently, he can’t change, he’s a one trick pony on stage.

    He is our problem and the only way out for us is to expose the sycophants to facts and truth to ward off their addiction to bias confirmation. We all have to become the Dr. Fauci’s of political truth. The Donald may be beyond treatment but there are still voters who aren’t and we can mobilize the greatest backlash in history to end this nightmare in two months despite the Russians and Republicans.

  15. Bradford @ 10:12 am, I agree with your take on Evangelicals, I would also include Catholics too.

    I have a facebook “friend”, who is a Catholic. He is forever posting some pro-Trumpet crap. Kyle the Kenosha Killer is now according to the Reich Wing some kind of a patriotic sort, like the Minute Men.

    Anyway, he posted some Meme from a Catholic priest about Biden cannot be a good Catholic since he believes in birth control. As usual this “friend” got his usual likes and amen’s from the usual suspects. One of them was a woman who went off on a rant about Biden.

    I posted a response that I was a Catholic and noted that only a Man can become a Priest, Bishop, Archbishop, Cardinal or Pope. This deficiency in gender equality and leadership is apparently offset by the fact that Catholic Women can make coffee and babies. Silence was the response.

    I suspect all of the Macho-Male Authoritarians in these Conservative Churches see nothing at all wrong with only Male Leadership.

  16. It is fitting that this aberrant, abhorrent doctor’s name is “Atlas”. Atlas Shrugged is a story about thugs like Trump versus all the rest of us who are regarded as looters (losers?) in his disturbed mind. “Who is John Galt?” It is our Predator in Chief, the man who despises and denigrates those who serve our country. When I told my wife this morning that I can tell when the president is lying by the expression on his face, she countered my assertion by saying, “How would you know? You don’t know what he looks like when he tells the truth.”

    Among the most courageous claptrap resistors are teachers. Having been told by true believer governors to go back to work or else (presumably to help Trump create the illusion that the pandemic is behind us), many teachers’ response has been, “Bring it on! We will return to the classroom when it is safe.”

    America has left our brain-dead president far behind in its fight against Covid-19. Medical professionals have used Remdesivir and dexamethesone and antibodies from recovered patients to fight the disease. The national rates of mask wearing and social distancing appear to be increasing. Universities are using all of their medical and intellectual know how to make campuses safer (Duke University’s intensive efforts found six positive results last week after testing almost 6900 students). Except for the attitudes of 18 – 24 year olds, we are making progress on many fronts. By the end of 2020 many epidemiologists believe we will be close to having an effective vaccine. Then all we will need is a government that accedes to science’s claim that a vaccine could help.

  17. I did this math earlier in the pandemic, when idiots first started saying we should emulate Sweden and just let everyone go about their normal lives and get as many people infected as possible as quickly as possible so we could obtain the “Herd Immunity.”

    So let’s take a look at the math (we can all still agree that math is not fake news and is a “thing,” hopefully?).

    Current U.S. population = a little over 330 million.

    Based on experience with other highly infectious viruses in the past, epidemiologists and infectious disease experts (I know, they aren’t to be believed) aren’t absolutely sure, but estimate we would need somewhere around at least 60-70% of the U.S. population to become infected — and survive — and obtain immunity (also not a sure thing, let alone for how long that immunity might last) in order to obtain the vaunted “Herd Immunity.” That would mean that a total of 231 million Americans would need to be infected to reach that 70% goal. As of today, there are just short of 6 million confirmed Covid-19 cases in the U.S. — with just short of 194,000 confirmed deaths from Covid-19 in a period of roughly only 7 months.

    So fellow Americans, we only need to have 225 some million more people in the U.S. to step up and get infected to reach that 70% goal to reach the hoped for “Herd Immunity”(again assuming that all of those infected would get some type of immunity for a significant period of time). So we have a lot of work to do as citizens, and I, for one am not doing my part. (Sarcasm).

    According to some statistics I’ve found, the mortality rate in the U.S. is currently running at about. 3.3. %. Another calculation is that the U.S. death rate per 100,000 of population is just under 50%[47.9%]. Assuming the same mortality rate (and assuming my math is correct — always a dubious proposition), there would likely be another 750,000 deaths from Covid-19 to add to the 194,000 we have already suffered in order to reach a total of 231 million Covid-19 infections.

    Yeah, that sounds like the plan Dr. Atlas! At least 944,000 Americans dead to obtain “Herd Immunity,” assuming it could be obtained at all.

    I don’t know about you, but for now, I’m wearing a mask, social distancing, and limiting my exposure to other people (waiting for the spike here in Tucson from the U of A resuming classes — should kick in by the end of this week). While hoping for a vaccine widely available by next year
    along with Trump no longer being in the White House.

  18. David F; this is exactly what Trump meant when he recommended “herd immunity” after his Clorox recommendation didn’t work and the coronavirus didn’t just disappear as if by magic. “So fellow Americans, we only need to have 225 some million more people in the U.S. to step up and get infected to reach that 70% goal to reach the hoped for “Herd Immunity”(again assuming that all of those infected would get some type of immunity for a significant period of time).”

  19. The only Western Hemisphere nation that has matched Europe, Asia, Africa in efficacy has been Canada. Our idiot in Chief has made Americans treated like lepers of biblical description. Only a very few countries that find US $ still worth the risk of American tourism. I always have said the most uncommon election results is the person that is needed by the times. Then there is the most popular elected is not the one needed, but the one wanted and the one deserved. Trump fits no category that I has happened before.

  20. @Pete and others who cave to the idea that Trump is good at entertaining:

    I say Trump is a terrible entertainer and has not one skill common to good entertainers. And I notice that Pete said Trump is “a one trick pony”, which to me contradicts the assumption that he is a good entertainer. The same sort of careless concession regarding Reagan (He’s a good actor, but he’s no statesman) ended up handing him the presidency; some voters need only one recognizable skill/virtue in a candidate for them to say yes on the ballot. We cannot afford to concede even one asset, especially when the fool has no assets.

    Let’s get this straight, folks: Trump is good at nothing. To say that he is worthless “except for this or that” is to concede tacitly that he is worth something in regard to whatever this or that happens to be. I, for one, cannot tolerate reading one more time that Trump is good at anything, something, a fraction of something, an iota; the man is good for nothing.

    I’m reading John Bolton’s book, The Room Where It Happened. So far, 140 pages in, Bolton has mentioned three times that a team within the White House writes Trump’s tweets for him, so the dude cannot even claim to be a tweet star.

  21. Patrick beat me to the punch today. I have read where doctors who are checking out football players have found an alarming increase in weaker hearts as a result of prior exposure to the virus, and think such weakness will lead to earlier deaths for those affected, but how a statistician can count such a player who dies at 35 with a death arising from the virus when he died from the immediate cause of a heart attack and what with other conditions that could have caused his death presents a daunting obstacle to coming up with a reliable formula to describe the underlying cause of death. I will leave that problem to medical statisticians as it is far beyond my pay grade, and none of my three MD nephews are epidemicologists. Is there a doctor in the house, i.e., one learned both in epidemics and statistics?

  22. My worry is that herd immunity won’t actually be possible. You need the antibodies to be reasonably long-lasting and effective. There have already been reports of re-infection, which provides evidence against the proposition. It may be that those people were especially susceptible for some reason, but that didn’t seem to be true on the few cases I read about.

    Also, I worry people are taking elementary schools too lightly. The common cold is also a coronavirus and it sweeps through schools every year. Maybe it’s true that younger children are less affected, but that won’t be reassuring when the teachers and family members at home are getting infected.

    Note that we treat cold symptoms but have no cure or vaccine. Seriously, it worries me. (To be fair, my wife is an elementary school teacher with a compromised immune system, so I’m biased to be worried about this scenario. At least we’re in Canada and are trying to take care with return to school. )

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