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Widespread herd immunity is unlikely, health experts say

Different vaccination rates within varying communities could keep widespread herd immunity from happening, according to experts.

What initially seemed like the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel for the pandemic, health professionals now say might not be possible: herd immunity. 

Herd immunity is when enough people are vaccinated that the community is protected.

“It's really been deemphasized; in retrospect I kind of wish we had never talked about it,” said Dr. Joseph Gastaldo, an infectious disease expert with OhioHealth.

Dr. Gastaldo says herd immunity is a complicated topic and has a lot to do with different vaccination rates.

“Herd immunity is really dependent on enough people from your community getting vaccinated and something that we know now is there are different optics for vaccine in various communities,” he said.

 As an example, he says rural counties might be more hesitant than urban communities and because of the variety, herd immunity across the country is unlikely. But immunity in communities is possible.

“There could be herd immunity in one particular county or city because there's a big vaccine uptick, but that might be very different from a rural county, where there's not that vaccine uptick,” said Dr. Gastaldo.

 At Monday’s briefing by Governor Mike DeWine, a graphic was shown breaking down Ohio's vaccination rate by county. In Delaware County, that number is 52%, compare that with Franklin County at 41%, and Pickaway County at 33%.

“It's an interesting way to look at what is going on in the particular county,” said Governor DeWine.

 So what does that mean for the virus?

“Is it ever going to go away? I'm doubtful, in fact it's probably something that we're going to see more of in the winter months,” says Dr. Gastaldo.

Dr. Gastaldo says the goal now is to make the virus manageable. But he says as more people are vaccinated, coronavirus will become less of a problem. 

For that to happen, low-risk individuals need to get the vaccine to stop the spread.