Health economist Lieven Annemans strikes back after virologists’ criticism of his statements. In an interview he argued in favor of keeping other options apart from vaccines as a solution. His citing group immunity was described as unscientific and even criminal. “To rule out a possible solution in advance is unscientific,” he says.
“I wouldn’t rule out group immunity. A lot of people have a healthy immunity: they don’t give the virus a chance anyway. What we currently do not know is how many people are still susceptible to infection. That is why I emphasize at every opportunity that we must continue to protect the most vulnerable. ”
With those words, health economist Lieven Annemans, who advises the government on how to tackle the crisis, explained in an interview with Smoke why a vaccine is not the only solution to the crisis. But the reference to group immunity came to heavy criticism. Virologist Marc Van Ranst expressed his displeasure on Twitter, microbiologist Emmanuel André even called him ‘dangerous’ and in The newspapaer biostatistician Geert Molenberghs described a plea for group immunity with today’s knowledge as ‘criminal’.
A smear, Annemans calls it. “It is strange that people are unfoundedly expressing very negative criticism on Twitter and that those quotes are taken over in the newspapers uncritically,” he says. “I pleads surely not for group immunity? I just don’t want to rule it out 100 percent. Because that would be unscientific. ”
He refers to the color codes that are in force in education. There now applies ‘code yellow’, and as a condition for ‘code green’, in addition to a vaccine, group immunity is also listed. “We have to take all scenarios into account, right? It would be unscientific not to do that, ”he says.
According to virologists and statisticians, too many people would die before herd immunity is achieved – soon 60,000 in Belgium, and more if hospitals are overloaded. Moreover, long rehabilitation is regularly required for those who survive. But Annemans questions those figures and emphasizes that there are now much better treatments for Covid-19, and that new studies are still appearing. He says he advocates keeping all options open to get out of this crisis.
“What if the vaccine turns out to be ineffective? What if it has serious side effects? What if an even better treatment is presented in anticipation of a vaccine than the one we already know today? What are we going to do then? It is scientifically correct to keep all options open. ”