Life after a vaccine: When will we reach herd immunity?

Published: Mar. 12, 2021 at 9:34 PM CST|Updated: Mar. 12, 2021 at 10:21 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Health experts nationwide predict to see herd immunity by this summer, and some point to signs in Wisconsin suggesting we’re on the right track.

According to Friday numbers by the Dept. of Health Services, one in five Wisconsinites have gotten a dose or more of the coronavirus vaccine.

“I feel much more at ease. I think that’s a good feeling,” Barbara Ryder, who got vaccinated alongside other Capitol Lakes residents, said.

Fully vaccinated people are contributing to herd immunity, which means when roughly 80 percent of a population has become immune (in this case to COVID-19), the whole community becomes protected.

“How soon we reach herd immunity depends entirely upon how quickly we can get the supply into people. I think we’re all seeing much more momentum there,” Dr. Nasia Safdar, the medical director of infection control at UW Health, said.

Dr. Safdar said the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine has dramatically increased supply, but she admits, supply only gets us so far. Local health officials must tackle other obstacles including vaccine hesitancy. She said, “There are people who are reluctant about the concept of vaccines in general; and then there are those who are reluctant about a particular type or allergic to a particular type or worried about two doses rather than one, and those things are somewhat easier to address.”

To tackle vaccine hesitancy, Dr. Safdar suggested officials should be candid with the public about information and get community influencers to help ease minds.

If we don’t reach herd immunity by the summer, Dr. Safdar said there would be “ebbs and flows” of COVID-19, plus health systems that periodically see a surge.

To reach herd immunity, the already-vaccinated hope others will follow their lead. Diana Reeves, a teacher from Michigan, said she feels like a “weight has been lifted.” She continued, “I am still wary of many things, but for the most part being inside with other vaccinated people is all I’m doing right now and it feels okay.”

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