As we have been in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, our primary goal has been trying to find a way to come out of this protected. A term that has been thrown around a lot by experts and news reporters is herd immunity, but what exactly does that mean?
Herd immunity is when a majority of the population becomes immune to a virus and, therefore, can contain the amount of spreading to those that are not immune. So, if 80% of people are immune, 4 out of 5 people who interact with someone who is sick will not contract anything. This keeps the numbers down and protects those that do not have immunity. To reach this lessening of cases, 50% to 90% of the population needs to be immune. Therefore, the goal is to reach those numbers of immunity.
How can we?
Herd immunity can only be reached in two ways. The first is through natural resistance. This just means you let yourself get sick and then your body will naturally create its own immunity to that sickness. The downside of this method is that it can lead to widespread sickness and even, in extreme cases, death. The second way that you can reach immunity is through vaccinations. Vaccines work by injecting a weakened or imitation virus that does not get you sick, and your body will develop antibodies that fight off the virus and any future times that you come into contact.
There are a few challenges with reaching herd immunity. The first is that COVID-19 is such a new virus that no one has experienced before. This means everyone can probably get it at some point because there is no existing immunity. Similarly, because COVID-19 is new, we do not know how long the immunity will last. If we want to compare it to the flu, then we can at least expect a few months, but that is not a guarantee.
With the way we have been working on distributing the COVID vaccine, there are high hopes that we will eventually reach herd immunity. However, to achieve the best results we should continue to wear masks and social distance. That keeps the ratio of those getting sick to those getting vaccinated pretty low, which will result in herd immunity quicker. Not everyone in the world will be vaccinated and this can cause spikes in COVID cases, but as long as there are more people vaccinated than those that are sick, we should be on the right track.
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