Local Doctor Explains Herd Immunity

A local doctor said it's going to take about 90 percent of the population to get vaccinated to hit herd immunity. KDKA's Nicole Ford has more on what to expect going forward.

Video Transcript

KYM GABLE: Pennsylvania is making progress administering more than 3.7 million COVID-19 vaccines to date. So far, more than one million people are fully vaccinated. Two million plus people have received their first or single dose of the vaccine. As more people receive theirs, and as we approach spring, many people are itching to get out of their homes.

STACY SMITH: Indeed they are, and whether it is traveling, going to a restaurant, or spending some time with the family, the big question is when will you be able to do these things without the fear of the coronavirus? Nicole Ford has a look at the potential timeline from some doctors.

NICOLE FORD: Almost every day now, people are lined up outside of Heinz Field waiting to get a shot. As the vaccination pace picks up, doctors say we're still months away from taking off the mask and returning to normal.

For most people, the last year can be compared to the winter weather-- bleak and gray.

MICHAEL MCGOVERN: It's been dragging on. I'm waiting. I'm going to be real happy when it's all over with.

NICOLE FORD: Michael McGovern wants to know when that will be. He's itching to do more.

MICHAEL MCGOVERN: Get together with friends again that I haven't seen in a year.

NICOLE FORD: Doctors tell me it's not as simple as saying, by this date, the pandemic ends.

MARK ITSKOWITZ: Once we get a larger percentage of the population protected, we would hope that the virus would no longer spread.

NICOLE FORD: That's where the term "herd immunity" comes into play.

MARK ITSKOWITZ: So if you are fully vaccinated and you get together with other people that are fully vaccinated, essentially, you have herd immunity in your herd. But that's a small group. That's a small community. What we're really talking about is the ability to go out to a larger venue, a larger event, and be confident that we are protected.

NICOLE FORD: Dr. Mark Itskowitz says it's going to take about 90% of the population to get vaccinated nationwide to hit that immunity. That number stands at about 12% now. There could be challenges before we get there by the end of summer, or the fall.

MARK ITSKOWITZ: Well we will come to a point where everyone who wants the vaccine will have received it, and we'll likely be left with a percentage of the population-- it may be as high as 20 or even 30%-- that is resistant to getting the vaccine. And at that point, we'll have to assess whether the virus is still being transmitted.

NICOLE FORD: In the end, Dr. Itskowitz says time is the driving factor to living life mitigation free.

MARK ITSKOWITZ: So if we look at what happened in Europe, we have to be careful about opening up too quickly, and we have to monitor the situation on a daily and weekly basis.

NICOLE FORD: As we push to herd immunity, people want to know if this is going to be an annual vaccine. Doctors say right now the coronavirus vaccine looks like it will last longer than a year, but you might need revaccinated when it comes to the variants. Outside Heinz Field, Nicole Ford, KDKA News.