COVID-19 Update: Reaching Herd Immunity
Over the past several months millions of Americans have been vaccinated to the point where restrictions have been lifted and the infection rate continues to decline. It has been fascinating to watch how this country has rolled out the vaccine and made it available to virtually anyone who wants it.
There is still a big “BUT” when you listen to the doctors, news and other experts. The “but” is, we still haven’t reached the point of herd immunity. As of now, about 66% of adults in the US have been vaccinated. The goal of reaching 70% by July 4th isn’t going to happen at the current rate.
We are also seeing a big disparity in the African American and Hispanic populations where the rate is more like 35-40%.
Herd immunity is really a mechanism to stop the spread of the virus which protects vulnerable people because the virus can’t get to them. There are several vaccinations of things like polio and measles, and each one requires a different level of vaccinations to reach herd immunity. No one really knows what that number is for this coronavirus.
To break this down a little more, it would be good for the government and science to provide more detail about immunity in general. For example, we know that many people tested positive for COVID-19 who never got sick, or exhibited only mild symptoms, probably because they were exposed to a similar virus at some point in their lives, and have immunity.
There are, of course, people who have had the virus, meaning they should be immune to that particular strain of the virus. And, there are an unknown number of people who contracted the virus but never got tested. They, too, should have immunity. These two large groups would take the actual percent of immune people to a much higher level. Only focusing on the percentage who have been vaccinated leaves these two groups out, which would logically seem to be understating the level of immunity of the US population.
Then there are people who don’t seem affected by the virus, notably something associated with type O blood, and vitamin D levels. There is still very little information available about that.
Some people are claiming they know they have been exposed to the virus, but never contracted it. They are calling this some type of “natural” immunity.
As you can see this is a very complicated picture. Trying to find the actual number or percentage that would achieve herd immunity may not be possible, but things have improved exponentially in the past month or so! Hooray! Viral outbreaks, epidemics and pandemics historically do not have an ending – they just fade away or morph into something like our annual flu season. It looks like COVID-19 will linger on for some time, maybe into next year, but we have achieved a great success, so far, in defeating it.