DeWine, doctor say focus should be on vaccinations, not herd immunity

Coronavirus

COLUMBUS (WCMH) – Throughout most of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been talk that reaching herd immunity from the virus is the goal.

Now, doctors across the country are saying that won’t be very likely in the United States, according to a New York Times article.

According to the article, it’s more likely the coronavirus will become a constant but manageable threat.

Gov. Mike DeWine was asked about herd immunity during a coronavirus briefing Monday.

Both the governor and OhioHealth infectious disease expert Dr. Joseph Gastaldo said right now, even though there’s a lot of discussion about herd immunity, the focus still needs to be on getting vaccines into arms.

The map included with the New York Times story, using information from the Department of Health and Human Services, shows how uneven willingness to get the vaccine could affect reaching herd immunity.

“This whole discussion about herd immunity is kind of a background noise to talk about, but I really think we need to focus on removing barriers for people to get vaccines,” Gastaldo said. “As more people get vaccinated, infections will go down.”

The map shows Ohio is more hesitant to get vaccinated, which is the key to herd immunity. Gastaldo said he’s concerned about Ohio’s showing on the map, but again said it points to the need for increased access and communication about the vaccine.

 “It’s not monolithic and we really have to dissect each county, each zip code and looking for opportunities of taking that message and removing barriers,” he said.

DeWine was also asked about reaching herd immunity, and he, too, is pushing to get people vaccinated.

“What we do know is this, that the more people that get vaccinated, the harder it is for this virus to spread,” he said.

Gastaldo acknowledges that herd immunity and getting vaccinated are directly related, but said right now, people should focus on what he calls community immunity.

“This whole term of herd immunity, it really depends on the geography of where the herd is,” he said. “It’s more of a proper term, community immunity.”

To get more people vaccinated, Gastaldo said eventually there will need to be even more work bringing vaccines into communities rather than relying on mass vaccination sites.

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