herd immunity hand hygiene
Prevention by adhering to the well-known rules of hygiene remains the be-all and end-all for everyone.

Spanish study reveals herd immunity unlikely in the case of coronavirus

The results of a large-scale study in Spain indicate herd immunity is unlikely without a proven vaccine in the current coronavirus pandemic. Protective measures taken so far, such as thorough hand hygiene, social distancing and wearing masks, will therefore continue to accompany us for a long time to come.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continued to rapidly spread, governments around the world began enacting increasingly stringent protective measures to interrupt transmission of the virus. People were asked – or mandated – to stay at home, keep distance, keep social contact to a minimum and wear a mask covering the mouth and nose in public areas. Though these requirements help protect us and those around us from infection, the restrictions placed on our daily lives are not always met with enthusiasm. As a result, some are calling for other options and their calls are getting louder.

Herd immunity questioned as potential solution to coronavirus pandemic

Herd immunity occurs when a large portion of a community has formed antibodies against a particular disease – either by vaccination, or by recovery from an infection [1]. When enough people are immune to a disease, its spread from person to person becomes far less likely. Herd immunity protects the whole community from a disease, not just those who have become immune. In the absence of a proven vaccine, this means that currently the only way to achieve herd immunity is for the virus to infect a great number of people, as quickly as possible.

Critics consider this to be a dangerous undertaking, placing already at-risk groups at an even higher level of threat from the virus. To add to this, a recently published Spanish study indicates that achieving herd immunity is currently unlikely without vaccination.

Sobering results from Spanish study

Spain was affected early and particularly strongly by COVID-19. In a study recently published in The Lancet [2],researchers set out to understand just how prevalent the disease has been in Spain, as well as the proportion of the population that has formed antibodies to the virus. The researchers posited that there may be many mild and asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 within the country. These cases, in addition to those who had survived the disease, would contribute to herd protection.

RX dispenser for hand hygiene and herd immunity
All public buildings should have hand hygiene stations placed at their entrances.

Following the examination of more than 60,000 people, it appears this is not the case. The results of the study indicate that on average, only five percent of the Spanish population has developed antibodies against the coronavirus. This means that 95 percent of the population is still susceptible to the virus. In addition, further investigations indicate the antibodies formed following infection are broken down again in the body after only a few months [3]. In order to achieve herd immunity, at least 60 percent of the population would have to have antibodies. The researchers question whether herd immunity is even possible without vaccination and therefore underline the importance of social distancing, and identifying and isolating new cases to halt the spread of the virus.

This delicate balance in infection prevention and control measures will play out over the next months as governments move to relax restrictions. Two regions in Spain were placed in quarantine again after corona protection measures were recently relaxed nationwide. The Catalan region of Segrià and the district of A Mariña in the Galician province of Lugo were sealed off as a result of another sharp increase in the number of coronavirus infections [4].

Protective measures remain indispensable in the absence of proven vaccine

The results of the study further emphasize the importance of protective measures – such as thorough hand hygiene, wearing a mask, and social distancing – in the absence of a proven vaccine against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The virus that triggers COVID-19 is mainly transmitted by droplet infection when an infected person coughs, sneezes or exhales. These droplets are too heavy to float in the air for long periods of time and sink quickly to the ground or deposit on surfaces. Infection can occur if you are in close proximity to a person who has COVID-19 and inhale the virus, or by touching your eyes, nose, or mouth upon previous contact with a contaminated surface [5].

“Previous findings on acquired immunity after COVID-19 disease are more sobering than optimistic, and in the end say only one thing: prevention by adhering to the well-known rules of hygiene remains the be-all and end-all for everyone”.

Dr. med. Andreas Glöckner, Medical Director

The risk of infection is especially present in highly-frequented public areas, prompting the WHO to issue a recommendation for all member states to place hygiene stations in all public areas. By practicing thorough hand hygiene, we can reduce the risk of transmission from person to person.

OPHARDT Hygiene provides hand hygiene solutions to combat infection

Our team has been working tirelessly to provide critical tools to combat the spread of COVID-19. As part of our expansive product range, we offer hygiene stations to suit every area of application.

For added support to ensure no dispenser is ever without critical infection prevention products, we developed the OPHARDT Washroom Monitoring System (OWMS). OWMS combines smart dispensers and software that alerts facility management to an empty dispenser or full waste bin. Equipped with this information, maintenance staff can ensure visitors always have access to infection prevention tools, which is especially relevant during times of pandemic.

Together we can break the chain of infection.


[1] https://www.impfen-info.de/wissenswertes/herdenimmunitaet.html

[2] https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)31483-5/fulltext#%20

[3] https://orf.at/stories/3173425/ Studie des Londoner King`s College

[4] https://www.stern.de/gesundheit/corona–kaum-antikoerper—keine-spur-von-herdenimmnunitaet-in-spanien-9328846.html

[5] https://bnn.de/lokales/karlsruhe/per-troepfchen-oder-als-schmierinfektion-so-uebertraegt-sich-das-coronavirus


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