Wed. Aug 10th, 2022

Unvaccinated people are less likely to contract COVID-19 if family members have some form of immunity to the virus, a new study suggests.

Researchers from Umeå University in northeastern Sweden found that Covid vaccines not only protect people who have received the shot, but also others around them.

If an unvaccinated person within a five-person family unit – with the other four members had either received the jab or gained natural immunity through infection – their risk of contracting the virus was reduced by 97 percent.

There was also a direct correlation between the proportion of family members vaccinated and a reduced risk of infection.

Living in a family with multiple people who have immunity to the virus reduced the risk of catching the virus for non-immune people.  Researchers found that four immune people in a family of five reduce the risk of the other person by over 97% (bottom right).  The risk of infection increases as fewer in the family are encountered

Living in a family with multiple people who have immunity to the virus reduced the risk of catching the virus for non-immune people. Researchers found that four immune people in a family of five reduce the risk of the other person by over 97% (bottom right). The risk of infection increases as fewer in the family are encountered

Experts believe that the target of herd immunity is 80% of a population that has immunity to the virus, although new strains of the virus may set this figure higher.  In the photo: A man in Stockholm, a Swede, receives a shot of a COVID-19 vaccine in March 2021

Experts believe that the target of herd immunity is 80% of a population that has immunity to the virus, although new strains of the virus may set this figure higher. In the photo: A man in Stockholm, a Swede, receives a shot of a COVID-19 vaccine in March 2021

‘The results strongly suggest that vaccination is important not only for individual protection, but also to reduce transmission, especially within families, which is an environment with a high risk of transmission,’ says Peter Nordström, professor of geriatric medicine at Umeå University, in a statement.

Researchers who published their findings in JAMA Internal Medicine on Monday collected data from 1.7 million people spread across 814,806 family units in Sweden.

Each family consisted of between two and five people.

The team used infection and vaccination data to determine how many people in each household had some form of immunity to the virus – whether it was through natural antibodies from infection or from having received the vaccine.

All households included in the study had at least one family member who did not have immunity, and researchers calculated their likelihood of catching Covid.

Researchers found that people in families with five members with four members immune were most safe – as the unvaccinated person was 97 percent less likely to contract the virus compared to the average unvaccinated.

Having three members of a household with four or five members with immunity also reduced the risk of infection by more than 90 percent for the unvaccinated.

Two members of a household with immunity reduced the overall risk of infection by at least 75 percent, and one immune person in the family reduced the risk by nearly 50 percent.

Herd immunity is a well-known concept, and the researchers say the results prove that the combination of protection against the Covid vaccine and natural antibodies can prevent infection in even non-immune humans.

‘It seems that vaccination not only helps to reduce the individual’s risk of becoming infected, but also to reduce infection, which in turn minimizes not only the risk of more people becoming critically ill, but also that new problematic variants emerge. and is starting to take over, ‘said Marcel Ballin, co-author of the study and doctoral student at Umeå University.

‘Therefore, it has consequences at local, national and global level to ensure that many people are vaccinated,’

Experts believe that the mark of herd immunity for Covid may be that about 80 percent of the population – or four out of every five people – is immune.

The rise of the Delta variant and the potential for even more powerful virus strains to emerge could push the target even higher.

Currently in the United States, 65.3 percent of the population has received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 56.4 percent is fully vaccinated.

However, America is probably closer to herd immunity than the numbers tell, with more than 44 million people having tested positive for the virus since the pandemic began last year.

Natural antibodies only turn out to last for about seven months, and health officials still urge people recovering from infection to get the shots when they can.

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