What it’ll take to achieve herd immunity from COVID-19
The term herd immunity is gaining attention as vaccines are being distributed around the country to healthcare workers and high risk groups. Although it seems straightforward, it’s not so easily acquired.
Herd immunity occurs when many people in a population become immune, either by exposure to the virus or from vaccination, and it stops the chain of infection.
To achieve herd immunity, around 70 percent of the population would need to be immune to the coronavirus. Medical officials are estimating that for coronavirus in particular, the range would be increasing to between 75 and 85 percent.
As of Tuesday, over 31 million doses have been distributed in the U.S., but only 12 million have been administered. Around 1.5 million people have taken the second dose.
“In order to prevent further loss of life, we must achieve herd immunity now through vaccinations,” said Bhavna Lall, clinical professor at the UH College of Medicine.
By reaching herd immunity, Lall said that this could greatly help high risk populations that have a higher likelihood of experiencing severe complications from the virus.
Although the vaccine is around 95 percent effective in preventing an individual from contracting the virus, there isn’t research to prove that the vaccine will prevent an individual from transmitting the virus to others.
“We do not know how much asymptomatic transmission occurs if someone vaccinated becomes infected with COVID-19,” said Lall. “It is important that people who do get vaccinated continue to mask and social distance until the rest of the population is vaccinated.”
Lall said that the further into the process of distributing the vaccine to the general population, it is a must to wear a mask, wash your hands and continue social distancing. Other practices to be weary of include gathering in large groups and spending an extended time in indoor settings.
“Once we achieve herd immunity, we can begin to return to normal routines,” said Lall.
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