As we are trying to find our way out of the COVID 19 pandemic and looking for protection, we have been hearing a lot from experts and news reporters about herd immunity.
Herd immunity is a term that defines a majority of the population as being immune to a virus and able to provide a form of protection to those that have yet to build up their immunity. For example, if 80% of the population is immune, that means that 4 out of 5 people who interact with someone sick will not contract anything. Because they are no longer able to pass on the sickness, less spreading can occur, and the virus will remain contained. To reach this level of decline, about 50% to 90% of the population needs to be immune. Ultimately, the goal is to have as many people immune as possible to provide protection.
Ways to Reach It
Herd immunity can only be reached in two ways. The first is by forming a natural resistance. This means that people would just have to get sick and, after the sickness passes, have developed an immunity to contracting the sickness again. The downside of this method is that it can lead to mass sickness and even, in extreme cases, death. The second way is through vaccinations. Vaccinations work by injecting yourself with a weakened or imitation virus that does not get you sick, which allows your body to start producing antibodies to fight it off and ward off the virus in the future.
The primary challenge to reaching herd immunity is that COVID-19 is a new virus. Because it is new, no one has contracted it and therefore, there is existing immunity to work off of. Along that same vein, since COVID-19 is new to us, we are not sure how long immunity lasts. If we want to compare it to the flu, then we have at least a few months of immunity, but this is not a guarantee.
Future Looks Hopeful
There is great hope that we will reach herd immunity with all the vaccination initiatives taking place. However, if we wanted to ensure the best results, we would need to continue wearing masks and social distancing. That allows the ratio of people getting sick to getting vaccinated to remain low which is what will lead to herd immunity. Of course, there will always be some groups that are not vaccinated and that can lead to surges in COVID cases. But as long as the number of vaccinated individuals is always greater, we should be on a good track.
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