COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout: Herd Immunity


ADH explains how many people it would take to get vaccinated before we could see our community build immunity to COVID-19.

NORTHWEST ARKANSAS, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) – The Arkansas Department of Health expects 38,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines to come in next week, at the same time teachers like Emma George will be getting vaccinated.

“We’re doing this for the safety of our students,” George said. “We’re doing this for the safety of our students’ parents, grandparents, and for the safety of our coworkers and family.”

Dr. Jennifer Dillaha with the ADH estimates 70%-90% of the population would have to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity, which happens when a large number of people become immune to a disease, making it unlikely to spread. According to the Mayo Clinic, using the concept of herd immunity, vaccines have successfully controlled deadly contagious diseases such as smallpox, polio, diphtheria, rubella, and many others.

“This is a new disease, we don’t know what level of vaccination will be required for herd immunity,” Dr. Dillaha said.

Take the state of Arkansas, for example, which has about 3 million residents. If 80% would need to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity that would mean 2.4 million Arkansans would need to be vaccinated.

As of Wednesday, January 13, just under 107,000 people have received the shot.

“I think the way we are rolling it out in Arkansas is a good plan because we have limited doses,” Dr. Dillaha said.

While it’ll take time to get everyone vaccinated, Dr. Dillaha said the current plan is still allowing our most vulnerable and people in key jobs — like George — to stay healthy and keep the economy running.

“We are frontline workers and we have been since the beginning of the shutdown, we didn’t stop working,” George said.

Monday, The World Health Organization’s chief scientist warned that herd immunity is highly unlikely this year and a reason why we still have to practice social distancing and follow health guidelines even as vaccines rollout.

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