Herd Immunity— Great in concept, difficult to deliver

Herd Immunity— Great in concept, difficult to deliver

The British medical Journal published an article last week reviewing the preliminary results of Sweden’s decision not to lock down their country during the pandemic in efforts to obtain herd immunity.

I am uncomfortable to label Sweden as a guinea pig, but their novel approach to a novel virus has given the rest of the world tremendous insight. The merits and failings of this novel approach to a pandemic has reinforced the importance of the basic tenants of social distancing, masks, and testing that the CDC has advised since January.

Sweden‘s goal was to expose the healthy population to the virus to form a herd immunity, while protecting the vulnerable from the virus. Unfortunately as they have discovered, this plan did not pan out. It is very difficult to protect the vulnerable if you are not prepared with the appropriate PPE, testing, and tracing. 

Sweden has the largest number of cases and fatalities in Scandinavia—around 37,000 confirmed cases and a three to five-fold increase over its neighbors. Denmark, Norway, and Finland only have 12,000, 8,000, and 7,000 cases, respectively.  All three neighboring countries adopted lockdown early in the pandemic, which they now are slowly lifting. All three have since re-opened their borders, but not to Sweden.

 As of today, Sweden is averaging 2.53 deaths/million; Finland is averaging 3/100 deaths/million. I hear many people in this country say that we should just let the young get the disease and protect the vulnerable. Tell me then, how has that worked out so far? Are the vulnerable being protected? Not by my estimate.. We should learn from Sweden’s attempt at herd immunity in an environment that wasn’t prepared for herd immunity.