Health officials worry Alabama’s low vaccination numbers will impact herd immunity

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) – Given the low vaccination rates across the state, health officials predict that herd immunity may not be achieved in Alabama.

Jefferson County Infectious Disease Expert Dr. Wesley Willeford says herd immunity exists when a large segment of the population is immune to the virus through vaccine immunity or natural immunity. He said that this leads to the virus being irradiated because it can no longer infect anyone.

Dr. However, Willeford fears that low vaccination rates across the state could make herd immunity unattainable. He said it was important to focus on personal immunity as well.

“The problem with herd immunity for Covid-19 is the fact that it is so contagious from one person to the next,” Willeford said. “If it wasn’t so contagious, it could be a different story. Since it is so easy to get from one person to the next, we need to have very high vaccination rates to get herd immunity. I don’t think we’ll do that in parts of the United States. “

Willeford said if vaccination rates stay low, Covid-19 could persist.

“I think what we’re about to see Covid-19 may still be there, but people who are vaccinated, people who have some immunity, may never get it. You may never be so affected, ”he said.

Willeford said if Covid-19 is still circulating in the future, people with vaccine immunity will have more guaranteed protection than people with natural immunity.

“By getting the vaccine, you are reducing your chance of having a bad result to almost zero,” said Willeford. “Get the vaccine because we know what that protection will look like, while like with a natural infection, we don’t know how much protection you will have the next time you run into the virus.”

Willeford said the vaccine offers 90 to 95 percent immunity, but it’s unclear how much immunity someone gets from a previous Covid-19 infection.

“Your luck may hold out, you might be fine, but there’s still a good chance you’ll end up in the hospital,” Willeford said of people with natural immunity to a previous infection. “There’s still a good chance you will get a bad result.”

He said the more people get vaccinated, the closer the state is to herd immunity.

“To be able to have this protection on a large scale is really only going to make everyone’s life better,” he said.

Dr. Willeford said natural immunity from COVID can vary. One person can have more than another after having the virus. He said that’s why they still recommend getting the vaccine even if you’ve had Covid-19.

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