Belgium ‘still a long way’ from herd immunity, research finds
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Belgium ‘still a long way’ from herd immunity, research finds

Credit: Belga

With a stable number of 5 to 8% of Belgians who have developed coronavirus antibodies, the country is still far from achieving herd immunity, research by the Sciensano public health institute found.

Sciensano examined 10,453 blood samples in cooperation with the Red Cross. A mere 5% of those blood samples contained antibodies for Covid-19, a similar proportion to that in April.

“Before there can be herd immunity, half of the population, up to 70%, must have produced antibodies against the virus,” said Sciensano virologist Steven Van Gucht.

That said, “the results must be interpreted with caution, because blood donors are generally healthy people and showed no signs of disease the week before the blood was taken,” Van Gucht warned.

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A second survey of health workers in the hospital showed that 8% had produced antibodies, making results similar to April as well in that part of the population.

“The study of health professionals will continue until the end of April 2021 to further monitor the presence of the antibodies in the blood and to deepen knowledge about their potential protective role,” Sciensano said in a press release.

“From these tests, we can conclude two things,” the virologist said. “The Belgians have managed to keep the spread of the virus under control over the past few months. And two: we are still a long way from so-called herd immunity.”

The health institute underlined that “immunity cannot be reduced solely to the amount of antibodies in the blood. Other factors, such as T-cells, probably play an important role as well.”

Jason Spinks
The Brussels Times