Blue Shield of California
COVID-19 Resource Center for Employers, Plan Sponsors, Brokers and Consultants

B2B General

April 15, 2021 - 4 min read

What does herd immunity from COVID-19 look like?

Learn how getting vaccinated can help us reach herd immunity safely


Not long after the COVID-19 outbreak was declared a pandemic in March 2020, experts began talking about one big goal in helping us put a stop to the spread: herd immunity. Then, thanks to three vaccines receiving emergency use authorization by the FDA, 64 million Americans were fully vaccinated by the first week of April 2021. As the country moves closer and closer to our goal, we at Blue Shield of California are here to answer questions about heard immunity, the importance of maintaining social distancing, and moving toward achieving pre-COVID normalcy.

What is herd immunity anyway?

Herd immunity occurs when a large group of people in a community is protected from getting a disease. That could be because they have already had the disease, or because they’ve been vaccinated against it. Herd immunity prevents the spread of a disease, as there are fewer hosts available to infect, while helping protect those who can’t get the vaccine due to age or certain health conditions.

How many people need to be immune to COVID-19 to reach herd immunity?

The percentage of population vaccinated needed to reach heard immunity varies with each disease. For instance, herd immunity against measles requires about 95% of a community to be vaccinated. With polio, the number is about 80%. COVID-19 isn’t as spreadable as measles, but the vaccines for it aren’t quite as effective, either. infectious disease experts including Dr. Anthony Fauci, think that about 85% of Americans will need to get the COVID-19 vaccine before we reach herd immunity.

Why is vaccination the best way to reach herd immunity?

Vaccination is a safer way to reach herd immunity than allowing more people to get sick with COVID-19 because it increases immunity to COVID-19 and may also prevent the spread and replication of the virus. This is particularly important because replication can cause the virus to mutate, which could lead to more dangerous strains that are resistant to vaccines.

What about social distancing and wearing a mask. Is that still important?

Yes. Even with more and more people getting the vaccine, it is still important to mask up and maintain social distance. The exception is when people are around others who are also fully vaccinated and there are a couple of reasons:

  • People who have been vaccinated could be infected, but without symptoms. We still don’t know for sure if vaccines prevent spreading the virus to someone else, so masks remain a smart precaution.

  • A mask protects you. The vaccines are highly effective at preventing severe infection but it’s possible to contract COVID-19 after getting the vaccine. Plus, approved vaccines might not be as effective against newer variants; that aspect of the disease still being
    researched.

What are the biggest benefits of herd immunity?

Once enough people are vaccinated to reach herd immunity, we’ll be on our way to achieving some pre-COVID normalcy. This is great news as some employers are looking to bring their workforces back to in-person operations.

For anyone looking to receive a vaccine in California, My Turn is a great resource for scheduling an appointment.

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