Vaccine hesitancy, lower demand make COVID herd immunity a challenge

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As the demand for COVID-19 vaccines falls off, reaching herd immunity may be a challenge causing the pandemic to linger.

One way herd immunity is achieved is when enough people have been vaccinated against the virus to stop the spread.

Doctors say it would take a minimum of about 70% of the population to get vaccinated in order to reach herd immunity. In our state, that means more than 18 million Floridians. The best way to reach that is getting more people vaccinated, and that includes children once vaccines are made available for them.

Michael Teng, Ph.D., a virologist at the University of South Florida, said as more variants develop, the virus will become more transmissible but most seem to be covered by the vaccine.

He explained that herd immunity will be reached by people either getting the virus or getting the vaccine.

“If we keep allowing the virus to have more chances of having a way around our immune system and figuring out a better way to infect people, we’re going to end up with a virus harder to combat,” Teng said.

“The vaccine you’ve seen, there are some very rare side effects. Some are significant, but for the most part, it’s on the order of a couple for a million doses that we see with these side effects. But if you get infected with the virus then you have a much greater chance of developing a severe complication.”

He also said it’s understandable if you’re still hesitant about getting vaccinated because we don’t know the long-term effects of the vaccine.

The CDC reports more than 243 million vaccines have been administered across the country, and more than 103 million people have been fully vaccinated. Right now, that’s 31.2% of the U.S. population.

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