THE FEAR OF IMMUNITY DEBT
Salem, 11th July 2021
A lot of countries have been relaxing curbs imposed for reduction of transmission of the
COVID-19 disease through strict social distancing norms and fast-tracking vaccination
programs. But few have new reports of respiratory infections, unseasonal infections, such as
influenza and respiratory syncytial virus. Doctors have termed this as ‘immunity debt’ to
indicate the effects of non-pharmaceutical interventions taken in order to fight SARS-CoV-2.
Social distancing, wearing masks in public spaces, hand hygiene, etc. have disrupted other
endemic diseases that would transmit seasonally, thereby increasing their severity of future
outbreaks. A study conducted in Vellore explains that constant exposure to infectious agents
improve the immune response of humans and in the absence of such exposure, unseasonal
outbreaks could be expected. Another study in New Zealand observed that the country
experienced a 99.9% reduction in the circulation of the influenza virus in the 2020 winter compared to the previous year. The time has come to rethink lockdown and other social distancing norms that would fulfill two purposes simultaneously – containing pandemics and preventing
the unseasonal spread of other viruses. New and sustainable interventions are needed in place to prevent seasonal epidemic viral infections in the future. The scientific community is duty-bound to provide innovative methods for this and the countries need to have accommodative public policies.
Research Intern, Stambh Organization India