Why herd immunity not an option?

Professor Datuk Awang Bulgiba in an interview with the New Straits Times on the 30 March 2020, mentioned that Malaysia only had a small window of opportunity to arrest the outbreak. On why the government did not opt to create herd immunity, he replied it was unclear how effective that would be.

“If we are sure that the virus does not cause ill effects, then that’s alright. But we are not sure. Lets say 95 per cent of Malaysia, which is 27 to 28 million people, are infected and one per cent of them die. That means 280,000 Malaysians will die before we get herd immunity. That is frightening and unacceptable. Only 160,000 Malaysians die annually under normal circumstances. No epidemiologist will say this is a good step as the deaths we see in Italy and China are not at one per cent of those infected, but four to nine per cent.”

Dr Awang Bulgiba said this would burden the healthcare system and the Health Ministry had only about 42,000 beds, with 3,000 to 4,000 spare beds.

“If one per cent of infected Malaysians need treatment and we build hospitals, we still won’t have the capacity. We also have only around 1,200 ventilators nationwide. With suppression, at least for now, we can buy time for vaccines to be developed.”

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