The head of the World Health Organization ruled out a herd immune response to the pandemic.
Herd immunity occurs when a large portion of a community becomes immune to a disease through vaccinations or through the mass spread of a disease.
Some have argued that the coronavirus should be able to spread naturally in the absence of a vaccine.
But WHO chief Tedros Ghebreyesus said such an approach is “scientifically and ethically problematic”.
Since the start of the pandemic, there have been more than 37 million confirmed cases of coronavirus worldwide. More than a million people are known to have died.
While hundreds of vaccines are currently in development, with a number in advanced trials, none have yet received international approval.
Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Dr. Ghebreyesus said the long-term impacts of the coronavirus, as well as the strength and duration of any immune response, remained unknown.
“Herd immunity is achieved by protecting people from a virus, not by exposing them to it,” he said.
“Never in the history of public health has herd immunity been used as a strategy to respond to an epidemic, let alone a pandemic.”
The WHO chief added that seroprevalence tests – in which blood is tested for antibodies – suggested that only 10% of people had been exposed to the coronavirus in most countries.
“Letting Covid-19 circulate unchecked therefore means allowing unnecessary infection, suffering and death,” he said.