If you’re betting on herd immunity (bad idea!), do it in a controlled way

To be clear: exposing people to a deadly virus in order to achieve herd immunity is insane. Policy makers and doctors who seriously considered this option should be tried for crimes against humanity. Millions would die, even with the best medical care.

Herd immunity violates the Nuremberg Code

Belgian virologist Marc Van Ranst wanted1 to keep schools open so children would have herd immunity by the time there’s a second wave of the virus.

Such a “strategy” violates several points of the Nuremberg Code:

(1) “The voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential” – Children cannot consent to medical experimentation.

(2) “The experiment should be such as to yield fruitful results for the good of society, unprocurable by other methods or means of study, and not random and unnecessary in nature.” – East Asian countries managed to contain the virus by masks, testing and tracing. So there is an alternative, herd immunity is not necessary for the good of society. Furthermore, exposure to a virus at school would be random, not controlled.

(5) “No experiment should be conducted where there is an a priori reason to believe that death or disabling injury will occur” – Minors have died from Covid-19. We don’t know the long term effects of the virus.

Even if the virus were harmless for children, sick kids would endanger school staff and their own families.

A thought experiment

I assume people will not put up with the current social distancing measures for months on end. However, when you’re immune, you can safely interact with others.

How to achieve immunity in a part of the population when no vaccine is available?

Pay healthy, young adult volunteers to get intentionally infected with Covid-19. Expose (inject?) them with a small amount2. Keep them in quarantine so they cannot infect others.

When the volunteers are immune, they get a permit to go to school, work and social gatherings. The antibodies in their blood might even help patients fight the disease.

I asked several university students about this scenario. The reactions were almost all negative. Very few wanted to be a human guinea pig.

  1. Newspapers misquote people all the time, but Van Ranst confirmed that obtaining herd immunity by keeping schools open was “the strategy of the Scientific Committee” in a tweet.
  2. It is not clear whether exposure with more virus particles makes the disease worse.

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