Herd Immunity

January 5, 2021

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Photo Courtesy: Pixabay

What it Means for Disease 

Since the start of the pandemic, we have all heard the term “herd immunity” more times than we can count. But some are not exactly sure what it means. Does it mean the disease goes away forever? Are we all safe? The list of questions goes on and on.  

There are many answers to those questions, but starting with the basics; Photoherd immunity simply means that the majority of the population is immune to a disease. So no, this does not mean that the disease is going away, it just means that it is going to be difficult to transmit between people because most are immune to it. The tricky part though, is that different diseases require different levels of herd immunity to slow transmission. The more infectious (or more likely to spread) a disease is, the higher the percentage of herd immunity is. For example, measles is a highly infectious disease which means that approximately 95% of the population needs to be immune to it. This is why almost all public schools require a measles vaccine before you can attend.  

Though this all may seem fairly straight forward, it is also crucial to consider the scale of the community. Let’s say that 2 years from now, 80% of the population of the United States has either had the COVID-19 vaccine or the disease itself. Regardless, 80% of the population has acquired immunity one way or another. This means that as a whole, the country has reached herd immunity. But there could still be small outbreaks here and there. This is because even though 80% of all people have received the vaccine, there still may be much smaller communities (such as counties, towns, and school districts) that have a small vaccine adherence rate. Maybe even as low as 0-10%. This similar scenario is why we are also starting to see increases in measles outbreaks every year. Even though the majority of the country has been vaccinated against it, due to personal or religious beliefs, there are small communities that do not have a high vaccination rate which makes it very easy for diseases to re-emerge and spread through a community like measles.  

This same scenario described above about measles can also be applied to COVID-19. So to answer a question posed in the beginning, no, the disease itself will most likely not go away, but through vaccines and herd immunity at each community level; we can eventually put an end to all of this. Whether you decide to get the new vaccine or not once it is available to you, it is important to do your research. Get information from credible and reputable sources such as the CDC, direct publications from pharmaceutical companies, and highly respected medical professionals like Dr. Anthony Fauci; and then make the best decision for yourself and those around you. As you are reading this article, someone out there is getting a COVID-19 vaccine. And although you are not going to wake up to a world tomorrow where there is no pandemic; you are going to wake up to a world that is literally one day closer to the end of the pandemic. We have reached the beginning of the end. As always, stay safe and be well.  

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