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HERD IMMUNITY: Mayo Clinic doctor discusses vaccination outlook

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- Throughout the pandemic the term "herd immunity" has been used quite frequently when talking about the pandemic and moving through it.

Vaccinations are a way out of this pandemic as countries around the world are vaccinating millions. However, many are suggesting alternative routes to achieve herd immunity.

Some say officials should be giving every person willing to get a vaccine their first shot to blanket the population in an effort to ramp up the number of people with some level of protection instead of the process currently happening.

"We know that the one dose is anywhere between 50-80% effective. So are we really going to effect the pandemic if we do that?" said Mayo Clinic's COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Program Co-Lead Dr. Abinash Virk.

She said this question is raised every pandemic or epidemic. A problem with rolling out that strategy will be potentially squandering immunity with someone only receiving one dose instead of two.

For now, Mayo Clinic is following Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines that state a person should get both shots within a certain window.

Mayo is working on studies of its own and says it's too early to tell what the best path forward might be.

One thing that is clear is people who've had COVID-19 are showing a "robust" immune response after only one shot. That information will be studied further.

Dr. Virk said the first job of vaccines is to prevent deaths. A vaccine's other main function is to lessen the severity of an illness and help keep people out of hospitals.

"COVID-19 in the United States has been declining for five weeks with the seven day average dropping 74% since the peak seven day average on January 11th," said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

Dr. Virk added, while that's promising, it's too early to tell if the drop is from vaccinations across the country. She also agrees with Dr. Anthony Fauci who recently said we could be masking into 2022.

So, when do we achieve herd immunity?

Dr. Virk believes we'll get there when between 60 and 80% of the population gets vaccinated.

Zach Fuller

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