UF infectious disease expert talks herd immunity and its role in the end of the pandemic

Published: Apr. 23, 2021 at 5:10 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - With more than 200 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine already administered across the US, a UF Health infectious disease expert is talking about herd immunity and what it means for the end of the pandemic.

Herd immunity means that enough people have immunity to an illness that even if one person gets infected within a group, it doesn’t have a chance to easily spread among the remaining people in that group.

UF Health’s Dr. Cindy Prins says that while immunity to COVID-19 can be achieved either through natural infection or through vaccination, the vaccine is designed to be much longer-lasting.

“They may be different levels of immunity and we don’t believe that COVID-19 natural infection is going to create as long-lasting immunity as getting vaccinated. It’s really better to get the vaccine and have that longer protection,” Prins said.

She added that while we are nearing herd immunity in the adult population, we’ll be unable to reach it fully achieve it until children get vaccinated as well.

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“I’ve seen timelines that say that, in the adult population anyway, we could hit herd immunity sometime during the summer. It’s important to keep in mind though that herd immunity does include children as well, and right now, those who are under 16 are not yet eligible for the vaccine.”

Scientists don’t know for certain what percentage of the population is necessary to achieve herd immunity, however, they estimate it’s between 70 and 90 percent. Prins says that in order to reach those numbers it’s important that people continue to take vaccination seriously.

“Herd immunity; another term for that is community immunity, and what we’re doing is coming together as a community to get vaccinated, to protect each other and to protect the people who are going to be unable to get vaccinated or for whom the vaccine isn’t going to work very well. So it really is a community effort to go out, get vaccinated and make sure you’re contributing towards the end of the pandemic.”

To read Prins’ full Q and A on herd immunity, click HERE.

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