UF Health researcher explains herd immunity and how it could end COVID-19 pandemic – WJXT News4JAX
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – It’s a term we’re going to hear much more frequently during the final chapter of the COVID-19 pandemic — herd immunity.
With millions of Americans being vaccinated against COVID-19 every day, many are looking to the future and asking when the coronavirus pandemic will end. It’s a surprisingly difficult question that could hinge on this epidemiological concept.
Cindy A. Prins, Ph.D., M.P.H., a University of Florida Health infectious disease epidemiologist who is an associate professor in the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions and the UF College of Medicine, looks at herd immunity and explains how it might be part of the answer.
Question: What is herd immunity?
Answer: Herd immunity means that enough people have immunity to an illness that even if one person gets infected within the group, it’s not going to easily spread to other people because of that immunity. It breaks the chain of transmission. And so the idea is that you’ve got enough protection in the population that people who are not able to get vaccinated, for example, could still be protected because lots of other people are immune and they kind of almost create a wall around that person and block them from getting infected.
Q: How is herd immunity achieved?
A: There are two paths to immunity. One of them is through what we call natural infection. So, getting infected with COVID-19. It’s still not quite clear how long immunity will last through infection. But it is immunity for some period of time. And then there’s also vaccine immunity, which develops after you get vaccinated against the disease. Vaccines are developed to be a longer-lasting immunity. And so it’s a combination of the two that can contribute to herd immunity.
Now obviously, it’s much more preferable to get vaccinated than to actually get COVID-19 because of the potential side effects of the illness versus the relatively minor side effects of a vaccination. The best choice is always to get a safe and highly effective vaccine.