Is increased mortality by multiple exposures to COVID-19 an overseen factor when aiming for herd immunity? Journalartikel uri icon



  • Background Governments across the globe responded with different strategies to the COVID-19 pandemic. While some countries adopted measures, which have been perceived controversial, others pursued a strategy aiming for herd immunity. The latter is even more controversial and has been called unethical by the WHO Director-General. Inevitably, without proper control measures, viral diversity increases and multiple infectious exposures become common, when the pandemic reaches its maximum. This harbors not only a potential threat overseen by simplified theoretical arguments in support of herd immunity, but also deserves attention when assessing response measures to increasing numbers of infection. Methods and findings We extend the simulation model underlying the pandemic preparedness web interface CovidSim 1.1 ( to study the hypothetical effect of increased morbidity and mortality due to ‘multi-infections’, either acquired at by successive infective contacts during the course of one infection or by a single infective contact with a multi-infected individual. The simulations are adjusted to reflect roughly the situation in the USA. We assume a phase of general contact reduction (“lockdown”) at the beginning of the epidemic and additional case-isolation measures. We study the hypothetical effects of varying enhancements in morbidity and mortality, different likelihoods of multi-infected individuals to spread multi-infections and different susceptibility to multi-infections in different disease phases. It is demonstrated that multi-infections lead to a slight reduction in the number of infections, as these are more likely to get isolated due to their higher morbidity. However, the latter substantially increases the number of deaths. Furthermore, simulations indicate that a potential second lockdown can substantially decrease the epidemic peak, the number of multi-infections and deaths. Conclusions Enhanced morbidity and mortality due to multiple disease exposure is a potential threat in the COVID-19 pandemic that deserves more attention. Particularly it underlines another facet questioning disease management strategies aiming for herd immunity.


  • Helle, Kristina Barbara
  • Sadiku, Arlinda
  • Zelleke, Girma Mesfin
  • Ibrahim, Toheeb Babatunde
  • Bouba, Aliou
  • Tsoungui Obama, Henri Christian
  • Appiah, Vincent
  • Ngwa, Gideon Akumah
  • Teboh-Ewungkem, Miranda Ijang
  • Schneider, Kristan


  • 2021

Beitrag veröffentlicht in


  • Open Access


  • 7


  • 16


  • e0253758