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Herd immunity: What is it and how does it reach it?

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Health officials say the majority of Nevadans will need the COVID-19 vaccine for their population to receive herd immunity. That is when enough people have been vaccinated to slow the spread of the infection. Lucia Starbuck of KUNR has this explainer.

Lucia Starbuck: We’re with epidemiologist Brian Labus, who also belongs to the COVID-19 Medical Advisory Team in Nevada. So, Brian, what percentage of the population needs to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity?

Labs: In general, about 70% of the population needs to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity. That is where we really have a level of protection for the population that prevents the spread of the disease. I think there is a misconception that when we reach herd immunity, all illnesses are gone. In fact, what it does is protect the population from outbreaks. There are still cases. It will still be introduced. People still get sick, it just won’t be able to explode pandemic.

Starbucks: How can a state with a mix of counties and cities achieve herd immunity?

Labos: When talking about population, that’s another challenge. Do we talk about it at the county level, city level, your neighborhood, or a group of your friends? Let’s say you have a county in Nevada where 80% of people have been vaccinated, but 20% of the unvaccinated are all friends and hang out together. They are very at risk and cause problems. Larger groups are generally protected, but within that group.

Starbucks: What happens when you reach that part?

Labos: This is a challenge we always face when it comes to vaccination. Countries with very low immunization rates are in one town or one school district. Because all the people who live there have the same opinion, the same belief, and no vaccinations about vaccines. The state vaccination rate may be 95%, but there are small pockets where things can spike. This is a big challenge. This is generally a continuing challenge for vaccines and has not yet been resolved.

Brian Loves He is an epidemiologist on the COVID-19 Medical Advisory Team in Nevada.

Lucia Starback is a member of the corps Report for America, Initiatives Ground Truth Project..

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KUNR Jaden Perez I adapted this story to the web.

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