No, and it’s probably not even possible.
People become immune to diseases by getting vaccinated or by getting infected. “Herd immunity” means that so many people are immune that the disease can’t continue spreading. Herd immunity is important because not everyone can get every vaccine, such as people with suppressed immune systems or babies who are too young.
“It's very possible that there might be someone in your life who can't get vaccinated,” says Anna Muldoon, who holds a master’s degree in public health and is a PhD student in the School for the Future of Innovation and Society. “So, the more people get vaccinated, the more we can protect those people in our friend groups and families.”
“Natural herd immunity” is a theoretical case of herd immunity achieved through infections rather than vaccines. But it may not even be possible.
“In recorded medicine, we have never reached herd immunity naturally. We have only achieved it via vaccination,” says Josh LaBaer, MD, executive director of the Biodesign Institute at ASU.
It would also be particularly difficult to achieve with COVID-19, because it’s unclear how long natural immunity against COVID-19 lasts after recovering from an infection.
“In this case, it's really good to have a vaccine in case natural immunity starts fading out,” Muldoon says.
Furthermore, herd immunity through vaccination will place less strain on our health care system and will ultimately save lives.
“Getting to ‘natural herd immunity’ means a whole lot of people are going to get sick and some are going to die,” says Heather Ross, a clinical assistant professor in ASU’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation and School for the Future of Innovation in Society. “And when we look at other diseases such as smallpox or polio, we would have never reached herd immunity without vaccination. What we would get is people with lifelong disabilities or who would die.”