How does a community gain ‘herd immunity’ against COVID-19?

West Virginia News

CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – It’s a term you’ve probably heard a couple of times, whether it’s regarding the flu or COVID-19. We’re talking about ‘herd immunity.’

Health experts say another term for herd immunity is “community immunity” and it’s based on population and the resistance to the spread of an infectious disease. There are two ways a community can achieve this: by contracting the disease or infection or getting vaccinated against it.

“The difference is those people who choose to take their chances with the disease are running a big risk of long term complications or even death as well as putting a strain on our health care system,” said Melissa Jensen, the program director for the physician assistant program at the University of Charleston.

There are more than 100,000 people in Kanawha County fully vaccinated against COVID-19, nearing that goal of herd immunity. “The fact that we’ve had so many people positive in the last several months with this latest surge gives us some temporary relief because that’s why we’ve started to see some of the decline because, accompanied by the people who are immunized as well as, the people who have had the disease we’re approaching that 70 percent,” said Dr. Sherri Young, Health Officer at the Kanawha Charleston Health Department.

Young says we’re still not where we need to be as COVID-19 is ever-changing. “With herd immunity or being able to predict what vaccine we need so what we truly need right now, everybody take the vaccine so we can finally get that community immunity.”

Even though your community may have herd immunity against one infectious disease Jensen adds, it doesn’t apply to all infections. “Herd immunity for any given infection is separate from any infection.”

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