Learning about herd immunity and COVID-19

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By HEATHER WALTERS 

As more people become vaccinated against the COVID-19 respiratory virus, state health officials look toward the Palmetto State’s population having herd immunity against the virus. 

Herd immunity occurs when a majority of the population become protected from the disease, by being vaccinated or having antibodies from actually having the virus. 

“Experts do not know how long immunity from COVID-19 lasts after having it, so vaccination is the best way for us to reach herd immunity,” according to information released by officials with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). 

“Herd immunity makes it hard for the disease to spread from person to person, and it even protects those who cannot be vaccinated, like babies, children or people who are allergic to the vaccine.”

In order for herd immunity to occur, DHEC officials state that about 70 to 80 percent of the entire state’s population must be vaccinated or have antibodies. “To have herd immunity and protect more people from COVID-19, a very high percentage of people need to be vaccinated,” states DHEC.

“Our ultimate goal is to save lives by ensuring all South Carolinians who wish to be immunized against COVID-19 are vaccinated as quickly, equitably, and ethically as possible,” states DHEC. 

As of press deadline, about 32 percent of South Carolina’s population had received at one dose of a two-dose vaccine against COVID-19, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).  

Only about 19 percent of the state’s population is fully vaccinated against the virus, as of press deadline on Tuesday. 

According to the WHO, for example, about 95 percent of the American population has been vaccinated against measles, creating a herd immunity against the disease. For the polio disease, the threshold for herd immunity was about 80 percent of people becoming vaccinated. 

“The proportion of the population that must be vaccinated against COVID-19 to begin inducing herd immunity is not known,” according to information provided by the World Health Organization. “This is an important area of research and will likely vary according to the community, the vaccine, the populations prioritized for vaccination, and other factors.”

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