Discovery Health chief actuary Emile Stipp said Covid-19 is becoming endemic and that people should forget about herd immunity.
Speaking to Biznews, Stipp said they estimated that the coronavirus had infected between 70% and 80% of South Africans.
This would suggest that the country is close to herd immunity, estimated at between 80% and 90% by the Infectious Diseases Society of America.
Stipp, however, dismissed the promise of herd immunity to end the pandemic.
“I think herd immunity is something that we must all forget now. It’s not going to happen,” Stipp said.
“The reason for that is that Covid-19 is becoming endemic. So, unless you have everybody vaccinated in a population and unless vaccination or previous infection gives you complete protection against reinfection or infection in the first place, you’re not going to get it to go away.”
He said if you’ve had Covid-19 before, your risk of getting it again if you come into contact with the virus is about 20% to 25%.
Even if you are vaccinated, the data emerging across the world is that you have a risk of about 20% of getting infected.
Covid-19 variants are also becoming more contagious, which Stipp said is “the real thing to be worried about”.
There is, however, good news. While you can still get infected if you have been vaccinated, your chance of going to the hospital and dying is significantly reduced.
“So, what you’re seeing playing out in Europe and many other places in the world now is that when they get to a certain level of vaccination, the country starts opening up,” said Stipp.
“It happened in Holland, it happened in the UK, and then infections go up. But what we don’t see is the deaths go up.”
What that means is that Covid-19 with vaccination is less harmful than influenza.