The term „immunity debt“ first appeared during the Corona pandemic in 2021. It is considered an invention of Corona deniers or Corona trivializers and cannot be scientifically substantiated.
„Immune debt“ means that Covid 19 protective measures, such as wearing masks or staying away, would have done lasting harm to the immune system, especially that of children. Conversely, it means that people would have been better off exposing themselves to infection by the virus so that their immune systems could have adapted to the pathogen. But this simplistic notion of the exceedingly complex workings of the immune system is wrong. Canadian physician Dr. Samira Jeimy, an immunologist at St. Joseph’s Health Care London in Ontario, even considers the idea that you have to get sick to develop a healthy immune system to be old wives‘ tales and says it’s simply not true.
What is „immunity debt“? Explanation, definition, meaning
There are many different aspects of debt. Immunity debt is about the guilt of responsibility. Such guilt is linked to an action or non-action and arises when the action or failure to act harms someone. The link between the perpetrator and the victim is direct and immediate and cannot be transferred to others. Guilt is personal and the requirement is that the person acting or not acting had a choice.
However, the term „immunity debt“ suggests that it is a collective guilt. In this case, then, it would be the fault of all who complied with the Corona protections. Legally, however, there is no such thing as collective guilt. Such a guilt would not only contradict the Geneva Conventions, but also the „enlightened basic attitude of European cultural tradition“ in general.
The „immunity debt“ Myth
When asked about the biggest misconception or myth in the field of virology, Isabella Eckerle, a virologist at the Center for Novel Viral Diseases in the Department of Medical Specialties at the University Hospitals in Geneva, replied, „That we absolutely need infections to strengthen our immune system.“ For the body, being constantly sick means having to fight viruses all the time. But this weakens the immune system, not strengthens it, because there is no learning effect.
Viruses are not harmless bacteria. In the course of evolution, the human immune system has learned to deal with bacteria because it has been continuously confronted with them. Where necessary, antibiotics help nowadays. But it is completely different with viruses. They also appeared in very early times at intervals and among isolated human groups. They were contagious within these groups, killed and were therefore not transmitted. So our immune system is not designed for viruses. For this reason they can cause damage, even permanent. There are vaccinations against some viruses (measles, polio), but against most viruses there are no vaccinations. Unfortunately, there is also no immunity against them through the body’s own antibodies.
Only a few infections result in a certain immunity, for example influenza. But the price is high. Whenever the body has to respond to viruses by producing antibodies, the immune system is permanently weakened. Thus, immunity to certain viruses does not mean a strengthening but a weakening of the immune system. So it is nonsense to claim that lack of infections weakens the immune system. It is exactly the other way around. So likewise, it is nonsensical to want to get sick in order to stay healthy in the long run.
Corona protection does not cause immunity debt
There are doctors who claim that due to the protective measures during the Corona pandemic there is an „immunological gap“. The immune system had not been trained. From such claims developed the accusation of immunity debt. It comes from those who downplay the Corona virus and see the measures against it as dictatorial. Ultimately, as is often the case, this accusation is a simplification of a complex event that even virologists have yet to fully understand. Corona deniers, on the other hand, „know“ they are right. They think that if the measures had not been in place, people could have become infected. They would have first become sick, then healthy, and finally immune. Now, however, the „training effect“ has failed to materialize and people are becoming seriously ill as a result.
This argument sounds logical in its absolute simplicity. That is exactly what is fatal about it. For it was exclusively thanks to the protective measures against the Corona virus that more people did not die from it and that today there are vaccinations that allow an infection to survive. If the idea of immunity debt were to prevail and, as a consequence, the Covid 19 protective measures, and possibly also those against other viruses in the future, were to be omitted, this would not only be a medical but also an unparalleled step backwards in terms of education.
Conclusion: What is immunity debt?
The term „immunity debt“ did not exist until 2020. It spread during the Corona pandemic and comes from the corner of conspiracy theorists. immunity debt means a kind of collective guilt, which is attributed as needed to the adults to the children, the „conformists“ to the „free thinkers“ or even those who believe the science to those who know better.
There is in this matter, however, also a theory which can be considered quite as a counterposition against the idea of the immunity debt. There is the assumption that the Corona virus has left traces in the human immune system, namely in those who have been infected with it. It is irrelevant whether the course of the Covid 19 disease was severe or mild, because the virus demanded a response from the immune system in any case.
Other viruses are known to have longer-term negative effects on the immune system. After a measles or influenza infection, affected persons often have to struggle with secondary diseases for a long time, including those caused by bacterial pathogens. It is possible that this is also the case after Covid 19 disease. Evidence is still lacking, but the theory is plausible and contradicts an immunity debt. If the theory is correct, it would be essential to observe corona protection measures in the future.