We all know that being with others is part of a happy, healthy life. But COVID-19 forced us all to cancel gatherings and social distance to help prevent the spread. Luckily, as more and more of us get vaccinated, getting back to our communities, whether large or small, is within reach. Though there’s no set date or time, a common marker for determining when we can return back to normal is when we collectively reach herd immunity.
Herd immunity (also called herd protection or community immunity) is generally defined as when a sufficient proportion of a population is immune to an infectious disease, making it so that spread from person to person is uncommon and unlikely. When an infected person comes in contact with someone who's immune, it breaks the chain of transmission, not allowing the infection to spread. If the infection is continuously blocked, because a majority of individuals it comes in contact with are immune, then it is a lot less likely to spread to vulnerable people who may not be immune to the infection.
The percentage of the population that needs to be immune to reach herd immunity varies per virus and how contagious it is. It’s estimated that herd immunity would be reached when 80-90% of the population is immune to COVID-19. This immunity can come from either the antibodies that are created when someone recovers from COVID-19 or from the COVID-19 vaccines and the protection they deliver. Vaccines are the quickest and safest option to reach the population immunity percentage that is needed. That doesn’t mean that once those percentages are reached new infections will instantaneously disappear, but the higher the percentage of immunity, and less likely new strains or outbreaks will occur. That’s why it’s important to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible. Even those who have had COVID-19 in the past should get vaccinated to further build their immunity, and protect themselves and their communities against COVID-19 and its variants. The sooner we get everyone vaccinated, the sooner we get back to seeing each other's smiling faces again.
The quicker we can get everyone vaccinated, the faster our population’s immunity percentage grows, the less likely we are to see outbreaks or new strains of a virus develop. Getting to community immunity means fewer people will get sick, hospital systems have the time and resources to manage any cases that do come in, and the risk of new infections is significantly reduced. To get back to safely gathering sooner rather than later we must work together to get vaccinated, so that we can get back to focusing on helping our communities thrive.
First, you can help by focusing on getting yourself and your household vaccinated while maintaining preventative measures like mask-wearing and social distancing. Then you can help your friends, family and community get vaccinated.
Sharing the importance of getting vaccinated, the facts and information about COVID-19 vaccinations and the resulting growth of our population's immunity percentage will help us reach herd immunity/community immunity. The faster we can get these done, the faster we can get back to the people and communities we’ve missed. Together, we’ll get through this.