Oklahoma doctors say COVID-19 vaccine could speed up timeline to achieve herd immunity

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – It was first discussed just months into the pandemic… Herd immunity. It’s the concept that when enough people are immune to the virus, it will prevent the spread. Oklahoma doctors say now that we have a vaccine, herd immunity could be coming sooner rather than later.

“If we want to return to normal, which all of us do, then we’ve got to achieve some level of herd immunity,” said Dr. George Monks, President of the Oklahoma State Medical Association.

Dr. Dale Bratzler, OU’s Chief Covid Officer, said there are two ways to achieve herd immunity.

“The first way is natural immunity by having the infection and recovering and your own body then develops antibodies and immunity to the infection. The second way is through vaccination,” said Dr. Bratzler. “You can combine the two and you can achieve this immunity that slows the spread of the virus from one person to another.” 

Herd immunity has different meanings for different percentages, as Dr. Bratzler explains…

“What percentage of the population needs to be immune to achieve herd immunity is in part dependent on how contagious the virus is,” said Dr. Bratzler.

For example, for measles, which is incredibly contagious, nearly 95% of the population needed to be immune to prevent the spread.

The SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 does not appear to be as contagious as measles, which means the percentage of population immunity can be lower, as Dr. Bratzler recommends around 60% and 80-85% to achieve herd immunity.

Dr. Monks said it could be months before we achieve this.

“We’ve probably had about 15% of the United States who have had covid. So we need to get probably around 230 million people with immunity, either from recovering from the infection or through vaccinations. So, we’ve still got a ways to go,” said Dr. Monks. That’s probably going to be deep into the summer before we start to hit those lower levels of herd immunity.”

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