Author Topic: UK's herd immunity experiment  (Read 3695 times)

ScottF

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UK's herd immunity experiment
« on: March 17, 2020, 10:52:23 AM »
This should probably be in one of the other existing threads but they seem to be devolving into more political/partisan focused comments.

I'm actually quite excited at the UK's approach. For those who haven't read/heard: The UK is apparently taking a different strategy than the US. They are instructing everyone in the statistically vulnerable category (>60, other complications) to self-isolate. Everyone else, go about your business.

The theory is that the healthcare system is insulated from the most vulnerable requiring a bed and/or respirator, etc. while the majority of citizens will be infected and develop "herd immunity", as we have with other colds and flu.

I like this for two reasons:
  • It might work. Everyone is a professional forecaster right now but nobody really knows if this approach is horrible or practical. It certainly is far less disruptive economically and socially.
  • It serves as a real-time A/B test for the US. We will be able to monitor their infection and mortality rates and compare them to the US approach of "everyone self-isolate" - which isn't happening anyway. Granted, it could take months to determine which approach was more effective.
I hope it's the former, but rarely do you get a chance to see distinctly different models running side by side and determine which is more effective.

yossarian22c

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Re: UK's herd immunity experiment
« Reply #1 on: March 17, 2020, 11:04:06 AM »
Certainly an interesting idea. Peak the group who is likely to have mild symptoms fast while hoping the 60+ contingent can remain isolated from the rest of society. I think that's a pretty big challenge, groceries, doctors, other care that elderly people need. I hope it works. Also lets hope there are no potential long term impacts of the virus, most don't but occasionally there can be long term impacts of viruses that aren't immediately recognized.

I wish the UK the best of luck in their experiment. Seems like a crazy gamble to me. But there are also reasons to think it may work. What the US is doing has the potential to lengthen the duration of the pandemic in order to avoid having an overload of the health system during a peak load. Let's hope both strategies end up being effective in their own way.

NobleHunter

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Re: UK's herd immunity experiment
« Reply #2 on: March 17, 2020, 11:11:51 AM »
Exciting in a "let's see how many people it kills" kind of way. The "low risk" group can still have symptoms severe enough to warrant hospitalization and probably not just fractions of a percent, either. No one has the capacity to provide that much intensive care at once. Once the beds are full, it hardly matters if most of the people using them will get better is a week or two instead of dying if there's someone else who can't breathe until a bed gets emptied.

I hope I'm wrong about the severity distribution but I don't think so.

ScottF

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Re: UK's herd immunity experiment
« Reply #3 on: March 17, 2020, 11:12:50 AM »
Certainly an interesting idea. Peak the group who is likely to have mild symptoms fast while hoping the 60+ contingent can remain isolated from the rest of society. I think that's a pretty big challenge, groceries, doctors, other care that elderly people need. I hope it works. Also lets hope there are no potential long term impacts of the virus, most don't but occasionally there can be long term impacts of viruses that aren't immediately recognized.

I wish the UK the best of luck in their experiment. Seems like a crazy gamble to me. But there are also reasons to think it may work. What the US is doing has the potential to lengthen the duration of the pandemic in order to avoid having an overload of the health system during a peak load. Let's hope both strategies end up being effective in their own way.

Agreed.

I'm wondering how it's potential weak areas (your point about groceries/doctors for the vulnerable) is much different than our current model. The one where everyone self-isolates but then lines up at Costco with a bunch of other people when they need to get stuff. Feels like the herd approach is more....pragmatic. I could be wrong.


ScottF

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Re: UK's herd immunity experiment
« Reply #5 on: March 17, 2020, 11:19:44 AM »
Exciting in a "let's see how many people it kills" kind of way.

Do you think I'm excited at the prospect of people dying, or the prospect of seeing a more effective way to prevent it? Can't read your mind but that's an incredibly weak opening. I'll give you the benefit of being stressed.

The "low risk" group can still have symptoms severe enough to warrant hospitalization and probably not just fractions of a percent, either. No one has the capacity to provide that much intensive care at once. Once the beds are full, it hardly matters if most of the people using them will get better is a week or two instead of dying if there's someone else who can't breathe until a bed gets emptied.

I hope I'm wrong about the severity distribution but I don't think so.

I don't have the statistics for COV19's effects on the young/healthy vs other flu so I can't argue for or against that point. Does "can still have symptoms" statistically merit abandoning the approach?


yossarian22c

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Re: UK's herd immunity experiment
« Reply #6 on: March 17, 2020, 11:20:54 AM »
I'm wondering how it's potential weak areas (your point about groceries/doctors for the vulnerable) is much different than our current model. The one where everyone self-isolates but then lines up at Costco with a bunch of other people when they need to get stuff. Feels like the herd approach is more....pragmatic. I could be wrong.

There is an initial rush to stock up - but with everyone working from home. Eventually the stores will go back to normal and I'm guessing will be less crowded in the days to come. The immediate rush to buy a months worth of supplies probably wasn't necessary. After this initial phase, we should actually see stores becoming less crowded.

ScottF

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Re: UK's herd immunity experiment
« Reply #7 on: March 17, 2020, 11:23:31 AM »
That stance got dropped quickly. The UK did some math, and promptly backpedaled.

https://www.euractiv.com/section/coronavirus/news/johnson-puts-uk-in-lockdown-in-coronavirus-u-turn/

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/mar/17/new-data-uk-government-coronavirus-pandemic-measures

I've only read the first link but it's not entirely a backpedal. The headline reads "puts UK in lockdown" and then promptly describes how schools are still open, and its a recommendation to avoid pubs. Doesn't sound very lockdowny to me.

ScottF

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Re: UK's herd immunity experiment
« Reply #8 on: March 17, 2020, 11:29:34 AM »
I should add, I don't know if backpedaling is the right thing to do or the wrong thing to do. I've seen tremendous pressure to follow the group when it comes to some of these measures. Sometimes that's common sense and sometimes not.

fizz

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Re: UK's herd immunity experiment
« Reply #9 on: March 17, 2020, 11:33:59 AM »
Compared to their previous stance, it's quite the change.. at least in the eyes of their own citizen.

Quote
If the government had stuck to the plans announced last week, Covid-19 could have cost 260,000 lives, according to teams of modellers from Imperial College who have run computer predictions of the impact of different interventions. The government’s strategy is based on their work and similar modelling from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Quote
Instead of letting social contact at pubs, clubs, restaurants and the theatre continue, and allowing people travel and go to work, they modelled scenario 2, which they call suppression. Under that strategy, the number of deaths would be driven down to 20,000 or lower – possibly even a few thousand. 

Anyway, they are always in time to restrict things further: our government too did not arrive to the current total lock-down all at once. Seeing the hospitals crumble under pressure and the victims pile up have a way to focus attention.

(from this other article: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/16/pm-tells-britons-to-avoid-non-essential-contact-with-others)

NobleHunter

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Re: UK's herd immunity experiment
« Reply #10 on: March 17, 2020, 11:34:55 AM »
Do you think I'm excited at the prospect of people dying, or the prospect of seeing a more effective way to prevent it? Can't read your mind but that's an incredibly weak opening. I'll give you the benefit of being stressed.

I meant it in a macabre sort of way, like watching a train wreck. There's a fascinating element to people being fantastically wrong at a distance, even if you'd prefer they weren't.

Quote
I don't have the statistics for COV19's effects on the young/healthy vs other flu so I can't argue for or against that point. Does "can still have symptoms" statistically merit abandoning the approach?

My understanding is that the math is still brutal. Unless something like 99% of severe cases of the disease are limited to high risk groups, available beds are still swamped by low risk patients. From a harm reduction point of view, you need to manage the hospitalization rate not just the gross fatalities. I don't think high vs low risk (at least our current means of assessing the risk) sufficiently identifies who will need intensive care.

Fenring

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Re: UK's herd immunity experiment
« Reply #11 on: March 17, 2020, 11:42:29 AM »
I actually like the idea first proposed, of restricting the most infirm, and also of establishing real quarantine for certain types of people, but keeping the rest of society open. I can't say for certain it's superior in terms of pure numbers, i.e. that fewer people would be affected, but I believe the risk on the other side of the equation is being forgotten entirely, which is that many people are at the poverty line and struggling, and if the economy gets damaged significantly there will be suffering and death of another sort. That's all relative, of course; such considerations don't match up if the medically expected death toll of a plague were to be in the thousands or higher. On that point I can't comment. But either way damage is being incurred, from contagion or from having people be out of work and isolated.

ScottF

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Re: UK's herd immunity experiment
« Reply #12 on: March 17, 2020, 11:47:42 AM »
There's a fascinating element to people being fantastically wrong at a distance, even if you'd prefer they weren't.

For a number of reasons I have the exact opposite of schadenfreude when it comes to the UK's experiment.

fizz

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Re: UK's herd immunity experiment
« Reply #13 on: March 18, 2020, 01:50:31 PM »
Well, BJ announced today they are going to close schools in the UK.

yossarian22c

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Re: UK's herd immunity experiment
« Reply #14 on: March 18, 2020, 01:57:01 PM »
Well, BJ announced today they are going to close schools in the UK.

Kind of relieved. I didn't think that policy could function with how communicable this disease is. I'm not sure if they have the numbers out yet but this seems on par with measles for communicability. But everyone is getting it at once vs having been exposed over years and a large segment of the population already being immune.

cherrypoptart

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Re: UK's herd immunity experiment
« Reply #15 on: March 19, 2020, 09:16:14 PM »
It looks like Iran will be conducting this experiment, willingly or not.

yossarian22c

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Re: UK's herd immunity experiment
« Reply #16 on: March 24, 2020, 12:52:10 PM »
UK has gone the full shutdown approach. That was a quick turnaround. Its good they did it sooner rather than later, the earlier you shut things down the bigger the benefit.

yossarian22c

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Re: UK's herd immunity experiment
« Reply #17 on: March 24, 2020, 12:59:43 PM »
It looks like Iran will be conducting this experiment, willingly or not.

Iran is an interesting case but I don't really trust anything their government says. However the numbers they've reported look like a society on semi-lock down. Or a society that has limited testing capacity that they've already hit. The number of reported infections per day from Iran is per consistent at between 1k-1.5k for the last 2 weeks. Either they've slowed the spread from what it would have been or their medical capacity is overwhelmed, or their government is lying to the world and their own people about the extent of the spread. Iran is also a young, age wise, society compared to other countries that have seen the outbreak and they are still reporting almost 2,000 deaths in 24,000 cases. Guess we can't be too hopeful about the warmer weather significantly slowing this virus down.

DonaldD

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Re: UK's herd immunity experiment
« Reply #18 on: March 24, 2020, 04:42:43 PM »
Although the UK was late to the party, Brits are generally able to come together to combat external menaces... stereotypically phlegmatic to a fault.

So the UK's herd immunity experiment is a failure, cancelled before it got well underway.

Thankfully, many in the USA, not just the president and the lieutenant governor of Texas, have decided to take up the banner: Louisiana pastor again defies state order not to hold large gatherings. He says 1,000 people came to his church Sunday

Kasandra

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Re: UK's herd immunity experiment
« Reply #19 on: March 24, 2020, 05:20:07 PM »
Quote
Although the UK was late to the party, Brits are generally able to come together to combat external menaces... stereotypically phlegmatic to a fault.

True enough, we never would have turned off the lights or drawn the shades. It's our right to be seen.