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It Takes a Herd

How Can We Use Immunity to Combat an Emerging Infectious Disease?


Adam J. Kleinschmit
Department of Natural and Applied Sciences
University of Dubuque


This directed case study places students in the role of committee members tasked with developing a strategic long-term plan for building up herd immunity to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the infectious agent responsible for novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The case involves the jigsaw cooperative learning method as students work through grouped sets of popular press articles that examine a variety of immunization strategies, including natural infection, vaccination, therapeutic monoclonal antibodies, and therapeutic hyperimmune globulin. Students also consider projections from an epidemiological model as they work to synthesize a strategic plan to build up herd immunity over time within a fictional country. The case is applicable to courses covering principles of immunity and the immune response such as general biology, anatomy and physiology, microbiology, medical microbiology and infectious disease, epidemiology, and immunology.


  • Compare and contrast naturally and artificially acquired active and passive immunity and provide examples of each.
  • Describe how neutralizing antibodies are generated and how they may provide immunity for an infectious agent.
  • Compare and contrast methods for obtaining passive immunity.
  • Describe how a vaccine provides immunity.
  • Describe the concept of herd immunity and how it can protect non-immunized individuals within a population and reduce community transmission.
  • Create a strategic public-health immunity plan that incorporates multiple interventions with the long-term goal of establishing herd immunity within a population.
  • Discuss the challenges of responding to an uncharacterized emerging infectious disease agent.


COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; coronavirus; outbreak; epidemic; pandemic; herd; immunity; vaccine; vaccination; immunization; infectious disease; virus; immunoglobulin; hyperimmune globulin; antibody; convalescent plasma; naturally acquired; active immunity; artificially acquired; passive immunity

Topical Areas

Policy issues

Educational Level

High school, Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division



Type / Methods

Directed, Jig-Saw, Role-Play



Subject Headings

Biology (General)  |   Epidemiology  |   Medicine (General)  |   Microbiology  |   Physiology  |   Public Health  |  

Date Posted


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