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Herd Immunity Explained & Achieved
Herd immunity is a scientific term you've probably heard about since the outbreak of the COVID 19 global pandemic in the spring of last year, in 2020. This summer of 2021, the United States is coming closer and closer to achieving herd immunity.
By: Kearney Medical Group
Herd immunity can best be explained as the point at which enough of the population becomes immune to a disease. When this occurs, it essentially makes the spread of said disease less likely from person to person. The end result of herd immunity is that the entire community or population is basically protected from contracting the disease in question and not only those persons who are already immune.
Herd immunity, as mentioned above, is the point at which a community or population of people becomes immune to a common disease. Put another way, the vast majority becomes immune to the spread of a given disease, with small pockets still remaining vulnerable. (In other words, not everyone in the community is immune and some remain at risk for contracting the disease.)
Herd immunity is achieved in one of two ways: naturally and through vaccination. The first is self-explanatory, meaning that the disease infects a number of people in the population or a majority are exposed to the virus. For instance, approximately 60% to 70% or more of citizens of a given country are exposed or infected. As a result, there are relatively few who haven't been exposed. Those who are exposed develop natural antibodies which naturally fight off the disease.
The other way to achieve herd immunity is by way of vaccination. A vaccine contains enough information about the virus to elicit the production of protective antibodies in the body, but it cannot cause an actual infection by the virus. So, the next time vaccinated people are exposed to the disease, their bodies are prepared to fight it off. (This is the scenario that unfolded in the United States when polio was one of the biggest epidemic health threats at the time.)
In today's context, medical experts estimate that in order to achieve herd immunity in the United States, approximately half to 67% of the population would need to be resistant to the COVID 19 virus. At the time of this writing, this goal is fast approaching. So, now you understand what herd immunity is and how it is achieved.
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Jarrod Kearney PA-C