As more and more Americans continue to get vaccinated against COVID-19, some are left wondering when herd immunity will be reached. Most of the population might not be familiar with this term. So what is herd immunity, why is it important, and how close are we as a nation to reaching it? Read on for information and various resources available about herd immunity.
What is Herd Immunity?
Also referred to as “population immunity,” herd immunity is the indirect immunity from an infectious disease that occurs after a population goes through many vaccinations or develops a natural immunity through previous infection. Once this milestone is reached, the disease will have trouble spreading and infection rates will decline, meaning the entire “herd” becomes immune to the disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) encourages herd immunity, but only through vaccination and not by allowing the disease to spread through natural immunity.
Herd Immunity Through Vaccination
When you receive a vaccine, your body learns how to fight the disease without getting sick from the pathogen. In the case of receiving a COVID-19 vaccination, if you were exposed to the pathogen, your immune system would know how to fight the virus and protect you from disease. As far as COVID-19 vaccines go, there are two types currently available that achieve the same goal of learned immunity: vector vaccines and mRNA vaccines.
Choosing to rely on herd immunity through vaccination is generally better than relying on natural immunity for the following reasons:
- Although COVID-19 vaccines have been known to cause varying side effects in individuals, the effects are mild.
- Through COVID-19 vaccines, we can track how many people have been vaccinated and when they were received, which allows for data to be collected towards reaching the herd immunity goal.
Herd Immunity Through Natural Immunity
Natural immunity can occur after an infection with a certain pathogen (in this case, COVID-19). Following the infection, our bodies create antibody cells that can fight the pathogen again if encountered in the future.
Choosing to rely on herd immunity through natural immunity is less than ideal for the following reasons:
- Natural immunity requires the population to have and recover from COVID-19, which has severe and deadly side effects.
- It is still unknown how long natural immunity lasts for COVID-19.
How Do We Reach Herd Immunity and How Far off Are We?
As previously mentioned, to reach herd immunity, a herd threshold must be reached, meaning a specific number of the population must be immune. This can occur through either natural immunity or vaccination. According to Dr. Ashley Drews, a specialist in Infectious Diseases at Houston Methodist Hospital, “it’s still unclear exactly how many people will need to be vaccinated in order to achieve herd immunity to COVID-19, but experts estimate that it will take somewhere around 70% of the population–with some estimates ranging as high as 90%.”
If 70-90% of the population needs to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity, then we need to consider how many people are currently vaccinated. According to USAFacts, at least 79% of the population has had one dose since August 3, 2022. Only 32% of the population has received three or more doses. This means herd immunity might be on the horizon, but it is unclear how far off we are exactly because it is still unknown how much of the population needs to be vaccinated.
As the potential for herd immunity looms, it’s important to remain safe and test often. Public health experts continue to preach the importance and value of vaccination, good hygiene, and continuing to practice physical distancing. Here’s what we recommend:
- Test often. Mobile COVID Testing in LA continues to offer on-site testing services and LAX testing for when you need to travel.
- Get vaccinated for COVID-19. You can learn more about the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness here.
- Check the CDC’s COVID-19 transmission map and keep up to date with local authorities who can provide insight on COVID surges in your area.
- Continue to practice self-responsibility with common COVID-19 precautions.
Mobile COVID Testing is eager to help you stay safe and healthy. Book an appointment with us today.