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Herd Immunity Against COVID-19 Unlikely, Say Experts

Herd Immunity Against COVID-19 Unlikely, Say Experts
COVID-19 vaccination sticker handed out to people getting vaccinated at the James City County vaccination site in Williamsburg, Virginia, Friday, April 16, 2021. (AP Photo/NewsBase)

By    |   Tuesday, 20 April 2021 11:17 AM

Throughout the pandemic, experts have said we need to achieve herd immunity to tame COVID-19. While the percentages cited have varied, most authorities have said herd immunity means that at least 70% of the population needs to be immunized either by vaccine or natural exposure to the virus to contain the spread of disease.

According to USA Today, this goal has shifted as more Americans demonstrate vaccine hesitancy, refusing to get the vaccine. At one level the decision is political. A Kaiser Family Foundation Poll found that while 79% of Democrats say they have been vaccinated or intend to do so, 3 out of 10 Republicans said they would definitely not get vaccinated.

The reluctance of so many Americans to get vaccinated has put the idea of herd immunity off the table. Instead, experts say we should aim to get as many people as possible vaccinated to tamp down transmission. The uneven landscape of immunization against COVID-19 will allow pockets of disease to persist across the country.

"There are going to be places, rural Idaho, for example, where you have very independent-thinking people where there may be continuing spread, because you only get 25% of people vaccinated," explained Dr. William Schaffner, professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee.

Schaffner says that he sees a "striking" divide between city and country folk. "I'm really concerned this virus is going to continue to smolder in rural areas," he said, according to USA Today.

William Hanage, an epidemiologist, and expert in communicable diseases at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, warns that unvaccinated people not only spread the disease but risk their lives by ignoring science.

The unvaccinated, especially those who are over the age of 65 or have underlying medical conditions, will be especially vulnerable to serious illness and increased risk of mortality from COVID-19, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That is why health experts now say we should shift our focus away from targeting herd immunity towards a more realistic and achievable goal.

According to The New York Times, Israel has been the model child in COVID-19 vaccine efficiency. The nation has vaccinated 56% of its people in its world-leading vaccine campaign and last Sunday dropped its outdoor mask mandate while schools fully reopened for the first time since last September.

A whopping 85% of the Israeli population who are 16 years of age or older have been fully vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19, allowing life to return to pre-pandemic normalcy for the most part.

It appears that Americans have rejected the idea of mass vaccination for the majority of our population so experts say we should now concentrate on controlling the virus. The more people who get the shots, the better, according to USA Today.

"We need to pivot the conversation away from thinking of herd immunity as a target we get to or we don’t," explained Lauren Ancel Meyers, a professor in the departments of Integrative Biology and Statistics & Data Science at the University of Texas at Austin. "It’s simple—the more immunity, the better off we’ll all be."

Meyers added that the future of COVID-19 depends on how many Americans embrace the vaccine.

"We’re going to be battling pockets of low vaccination for a long time," she said, according to USA Today. "COVID-19 is such a stealthy virus—it spreads quickly and silently — it won’t start to fade away until the vast majority of people are immunized."

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Throughout the pandemic, experts have said we need to achieve herd immunity to tame COVID-19. While the percentages cited have varied,...
covid, coronavirus, herd immunity, vaccines
Tuesday, 20 April 2021 11:17 AM
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