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Doctor says we won’t reach herd immunity unless vaccination rates improve

Updated: May. 22, 2021 at 9:53 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Many people across the state are starting to feel like it is pre-pandemic again with large gatherings returning and mask restrictions being lifted, but local doctors are still worried about vaccination rates.

“We are still at risk of it spreading,” Dr. David Hicks with the Jefferson County Health Department said.

Hicks said Alabama has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country and if it doesn’t pick up, we may never reach herd immunity.

“I don’t think we are going to be able to eradicate COVID-19,” Hicks said. “We haven’t been getting ourselves vaccinated to a level to even given ourselves a chance at that.”

Hicks said herd immunity needs to be achieved in each age group. He said we have only reached it in those who are 75 and older.

“We have at least 75% of people who are 75 and older have gotten vaccinated in our community,” Hicks said. “The problem is, when you look at the vaccination rates as we get younger and younger, we aren’t even close to that herd immunity mark.”

Dr. Hicks said younger ages have to start getting vaccinated or the virus will stick around.

“If we don’t do that, I think that is essentially guaranteeing that we are just going to have to accept a certain level of COVID outbreaks and flare ups, more than we really should if we were vaccinated at a higher level,” he said.

He said it could be similar to the flu, but it’s hard to tell.

“We know that there is going to be people who get sick with the flu, people hospitalized with the flu and every year thousands of people in America die with the flu,” Hicks said. “We have accepted that as society, as this is the level we think is acceptable without doing any other public health measures, so we are going to have to figure out what that threshold is for COVID.”

Hicks said vaccinate against COVID-19 or we will need to plan to deal with it in the long run.

“We want to give us the best fighting chance, that’s why the more people to get vaccinated, puts us in the best position to keep COVID under control,” Hicks said.

Dr. Hicks said the CDC said that fully vaccinated people are now very unlikely to spread the virus to another person. He said that is just another reason the vaccine can help stop COVID-19.

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