Digital herd immunity and COVID-19

This article was originally published here

Phys Biol. 2021 Apr 7. doi: 10.1088/1478-3975/abf5b4. Online ahead of print.


A population can be immune to epidemics even if not all of its individual members are immune to the disease, so long as sufficiently many are immune-this is the traditional notion of herd immunity. In the smartphone era a population can be immune to epidemicseven if not a single one of its members is immune to the disease-a notion we call “digital herd immunity”, which is similarly an emergent characteristic of the population. This immunity arises because contact-tracing protocols based on smartphone capabilities can lead to highly efficient quarantining of infected population members and thus the extinguishing of nascent epidemics. When the disease characteristics are favorable and smartphone usage is high enough, the population is in this immune phase. As usage decreases there is a novel “contact-tracing phase transition” to an epidemic phase. We present and study a simple branching-process model for COVID-19 and show that digital immunity is possible regardless of the proportion of non-symptomatic transmission.

PMID:33827059 | DOI:10.1088/1478-3975/abf5b4