An Amish community in Pennsylvania has become the first in the US to achieve herd immunity to COVID 19 after 90 per cent of their homes became infected with the virus when they resumed church services late last spring.
The administrator of a medical centre in the heart of the Amish community in New Holland Borough estimates as many as 90 per cent of Plain families have since had at least one family member infected, and that this religious enclave accomplished what no other community in the country has – herd immunity.
And Allen Hoover, an Old Order Mennonite and administrator of the Parochial Medical Centre, a clinic that essentially serves the Plain community said that you would think that if COVID was as infectious as they say, it would go through like a tsunami.
Public health officials and epidemiologists didn’t argue the extensive outbreak Allen Hoover reported, but they voiced concern that misplaced understanding of herd immunity in a population that makes up 8 per cent of Lancaster County may compromise the effort to turn the tide on the pandemic.
As Allen Hoover observed, faith in herd immunity has inspired members of the Plain community to relax on essential mitigation efforts such as masking and social distancing, and they may see little motivation to be vaccinated.
Additionally, it’s unknown whether achieving herd immunity last year would be beneficial now.
Six infectious disease experts with whom LancasterOnline talked to expressed unease with a reliance on the assumption the Plain community had achieved herd immunity, and they pointed out that if that was not the case, prior infection and existing antibodies may give limited protection.
Eric Lofgren, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Washington State University said herd immunity is only valid at a given point in time, and that it wasn’t a switch that once it gets thrown, you’re safe and it will wear off.
This collision of science and personal experience could leave Lancaster County vulnerable just as county health officials attempt to make headway vaccinating residents against COVID 19.
David Lo, professor of biomedical sciences and senior associate dean of research at the University of California, Riverside said that you can have a long period where you believe everything is okay, but you have this entire susceptible population.
David Lo continued that all it takes is one person who’s infectious to give you this sudden outbreak.
This is particularly interesting, and it essentially appears to present the fact that it would be better to simply let the virus run its course, and for the elderly and vulnerable to self-isolate.
But then these people are extremely healthy. They’re slim and active and eat real food, and maybe we wouldn’t expect to see the same outcome in people whose cells are weighed down by insulin and junk food.
And Amish people differ from the rest because they don’t watch TV, and they at least have some common sense. They only fear God, and they absolutely don’t buy into this hype about COVID 19 – they’re living their lives normally.