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What is herd immunity? When will we reach it? An OhioHealth doctor explains

Dr. Joseph Gastaldo says he doesn't know when we will reach herd immunity. When you hear about it, it's usually based on the percentage of people protected.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — What is herd immunity?

Dr. Joseph Gastaldo, an Infectious Diseases expert from OhioHealth, says it's when there are enough people protected from an infection that those who aren't immune are safe.

“We want that number as high as possible,” Dr. Gastaldo said.

Now the big question: when will we reach herd immunity?

Dr. Gastaldo says he doesn't know. But when you hear about herd immunity, it's usually based on the percentage of people protected.

“Nobody can really tell you what that number is, it's really a best guesstimate. Some people say 60%, some people say more in the 70 to 75% [range], based on the variance that we're seeing more in this country. So it really is a range. We will know when we get to herd immunity when our positivity rate really bottoms out,” Dr. Gastaldo said.

Sounds simple, but there are a lot of factors.

Dr. Gastaldo says new strains of the virus could raise the number of people needed for herd immunity. Plus, you have those who don't want to get vaccinated.

Then there's children--a section of the population who cannot get vaccinated, at least not now. Dr. Gastaldo estimates at some point this year a vaccine will be authorized for children.

What can you do?

When it's your turn, get vaccinated.

“Sometime this summer there will likely be more vaccines than the supply and one of my concerns is that those who have vaccine hesitancy will have less urgency to be vaccinated once they continue to appreciate and hear all the positive numbers out there,” said Dr. Gastaldo.

Do you have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine? 

Local medical experts will answer them Thursday on 10TV. Tweet your questions using #10tvvaccine or text them to 614-460-3345.

Watch "A Shot of Hope: The COVID-19 Vaccine" Thursday on 10TV from 7-8 p.m.

Credit: WBNS-10TV