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Lecture / Reading

The Science of Herd Immunity

Sponsored by the School of Humanities and Sciences and the Stanford School of Medicine
Past Event
Wednesday, April 7, 2021
12:00pm - 1:30pm
See event details for admission info

The concept of herd immunity has been applied for decades in epidemiology and public health, yet the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted new debate about the role of herd immunity in the pandemic response and confusion about what herd immunity entails.

Join a panel of experts who will explain the science of and misconceptions around herd immunity and discuss new research frontiers in immunology, infectious disease dynamics, and human behavior.

People in public arenas have seized on scientific uncertainty in the face of an emerging disease to argue that the fastest way out of the pandemic is to allow herd immunity to accumulate through natural infection in a minimally controlled epidemic; others have argued that herd immunity can be achieved at levels far below theoretically-determined thresholds.

With the introduction of safe and effective vaccines, it is important to understand how to evaluate progress toward herd immunity and what reaching herd immunity will mean within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Marc Lipsitch

Marc Lipsitch

Professor of epidemiology and Director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics

Marc Lipsitch is Professor of epidemiology and Director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. He is an internationally-recognized expert in methods and disease transmission modeling, and has been a leading scientific authority during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rustom Antia

Rustom Antia

Professor of biology

Rustom Antia is a Professor of biology at Emory University. He has broad interests in pathogen-host interactions. Most of his work focuses on understanding the dynamics of the pathogen and the immune responses, and the generation of immunological memory. He is also interested in linking the dynamics of infections at the within-host and between-host levels, as well as exploring the evolution of pathogens and the emergence of new infectious diseases, including COVID-19.

Lauren Ancel Meyers

Lauren Ancel Meyers

Professor of integrative biology and statistics & data sciences

Lauren Ancel Meyers is Professor of Integrative Biology and Statistics & Data Sciences at The University of Texas at Austin. For over 20 years, she has pioneered the application of network theory, data-driven models, and machine learning to improve the detection, forecasting, and control of emerging viral threats. She is the founding director of the UT COVID-19 Modeling Consortium, which has provided global leadership throughout the pandemic through multiple COVID-19 forecasting dashboards and critical analyses to support pandemic surveillance, response, testing, and school opening strategies nationwide.

Julie Parsonnet

Julie Parsonnet

Professor in medicine and Professor of epidemiology and population health

Julie Parsonnet is Professor in medicine and Professor of epidemiology and population health at Stanford University. She is an infectious diseases clinician and epidemiologist focusing on the role of infections in chronic disease. Recently, she has focused on how exposures to infectious agents affects metabolism and growth. With the onset of the SARS-CoV2 pandemic, she has shifted to leading large scale studies of SARS-CoV2 immunity, clinical trials of outpatient treatments, and development of over-the-counter SARS-CoV2 diagnostics.

Erin Mordecai

Moderator: Erin Mordecai

Assistant Professor of biology

Erin Mordecai is Assistant Professor in biology at Stanford University who studies the ecology of infectious diseases in plants, animals, and humans.