By Dr. Bill Hemmer
As a healthcare provider, I have been telling patients since March of 2020 that every pandemic since 1890 has been controlled once Herd Immunity has been reached. Herd Immunity has been proven to be a valid scientific principle throughout my 33 years in practice. So, why aren’t we hearing more about Herd Immunity now?
To bring you up to speed if you don’t understand what Herd Immunity is, here is the definition I found on Wikipedia this morning (Dec 21).
“Herd immunity (also called herd effect, community immunity, population immunity, or mass immunity) is a form of indirect protection from infectious disease that can occur with some diseases when a sufficient percentage of a population has become immune to an infection, whether through previous infections or vaccination,] thereby reducing the likelihood of infection for individuals who lack immunity.Immune individuals are unlikely to contribute to disease transmission, disrupting chains of infection, which stops or slows the spread of disease.The greater the proportion of immune individuals in a community, the smaller the probability that non-immune individuals will come into contact with an infectious individual.
With this definition in mind, anyone who has been infected with COVID-19 or has been vaccinated can be counted towards our current Herd Immunity numbers. According to the CDC website, as of this morning (Dec 2) there have been 51,110,283 confirmed infections and 496,239, 573 total doses of vaccines have been administered as of Dec 20th in the US. Combine these numbers with the entire US population of 333,834,210 according to the Worldometer as of Saturday Dec. 18th, you get an idea of where we are with respect to Herd Immunity in the US.
I know these numbers are not totally accurate, because of multiple reasons, but I just wanted to get a ballpark idea of where we are right now with Herd Immunity. So, if you add the number of US infections (51,110,283) plus the number of US vaccinations (496,239,573) you get 547,349,856. With the current US population being 333,834,210, this means there is a surplus of 213,515,646 people in the Herd Immunity equation according to these numbers as of this morning.
Most Herd Immunity definitions state we need between 85 to 94 percent of people to be infected or vaccinated to reach the Herd Immunity threshold. According to the data I just mentioned above, we are currently at 164%. This is great news!
So, why are people still getting COVID at such high rates right now if we have reached Herd Immunity?
For the same reason people still get the flu every year. We have long ago reached Herd Immunity for the flu, but new variants emerge every year that allow certain, at risk individuals, to get infected and some people will die from those infections. This occurs when any virus becomes endemic. Endemic means the virus, in some form, is here to stay forever.
COVID-19 infections will be part of our lives from now on. Just like the flu, the common cold and all other viral infections we have to put up with every year. The good news, as we are seeing with the Omicron variant of COVID-19, is that it is easily transmitted but weaker than the strains before it. This is the natural tendency of all viral infections. This ensures the virus becomes endemic, but continually weaker over time.
The bottom line is we will all get through this together. Your body is amazing. It can and will fight off all infections if you are healthy. Well…are you healthy?