St. Louis could reach COVID-19 herd immunity as early as mid-July. What will life look like then?
Enter “When will we reach” in your web browser and the rest of the query will be filled in automatically: “Herd immunity”. This is a question anyone involved in the COVID-19 pandemic wants to answer, especially now that every Missourian is eligible for a vaccine. Google is like a tired parent on a road trip – a “Are we there yet?” from an impatient, well, everyone.
Herd immunity is the point at which enough people are immune to an infectious disease that it is difficult for the disease to spread to others. The St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force estimates the greater St. Louis area could reach this point by mid-July. But even with herd immunity, concerns about COVID-19 won’t go away overnight.
First: children. There is no hard and fast rule how many people need to be vaccinated in order for us to achieve herd immunity. According to research, however, it is at least 75 percent of the population. Because health professionals have different ideas about what a herd immunity threshold is, they offer different views on whether it can really be achieved if children are not vaccinated. (U.S. studies are currently ongoing to determine the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines in children.)
“Continued exposure from parents and teachers will continue to challenge herd immunity,” says Enbal Shacham, a professor in the College of Public Health and Social Justice at Saint Louis University. “So we need adults who vaccinate as soon as possible, especially parents and teachers, as their exposure to children is the most concentrated.”
Another question: how long does immunity last once a person has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19?
Dr. Rachel Presti is Associate Professor of Medicine at Washington University and Medical Director of the Infectious Disease Clinical Research Unit. To determine how long immunity lasts, Wash researchers monitor. U. the participants in the COVID-19 vaccine study for two years for immunity and disease. “We are also doing detailed immunological studies on a group of research participants who have been vaccinated under the Emergency Use Authorization Act,” says Presti. She believes a booster shot is likely needed, but not necessarily annually.
Shots and Statistics
At press time, 877,461 Missourians had received two vaccines for COVID-19. That’s 14 percent of the state’s population.
People are ready to gather together safely. Watch a movie without renting the entire theater. Go to a game of Cardinals and sit elbow to elbow with strangers. Hug a loved one. Hug someone They understandably want clear answers as to what activities they should or should not do while waiting for herd immunity and after we have achieved it. “There is no yes or no answer to when people can feel safe when they go to a cinema, bar or restaurant safely,” says Dr. Steven Lawrence, an infectious disease doctor at Wash. U. at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. Such decisions involve the risks that people – even if they are all vaccinated – want to take. Lawrence is referring to the fact that while all COVID-19 vaccines offer proven protection, that protection is not 100 percent.
Looking ahead, Lawrence says he understands that people want to return to “normal”, but given the relative novelty of the virus and ongoing studies, he says, “We may want to consider a“ new normal ”rather than a normal knew before COVID-19. “
TO KNOW MORE
LOCAL RESEARCHERS MONITOR THREE RAPIDLY SPREADING COVID-19 VARIANTS.
Viruses are constantly changing, including SARS-CoV-2. A condition analysis of the Coldwater Creek sewer system in St. Louis County revealed the presence of strains of virus with mutations typically associated with variant B.1.1.7 and originating in the United Kingdom. New research from Washington University School of Medicine shows three rapidly spreading new varieties – from South Africa, the UK and Brazil – can evade antibodies that fight the original form of the virus that started the pandemic. How concerned should we be?
“There are huge variations in the amount of antibodies a person produces in response to vaccinations or natural infections,” says Dr. Michael S. Diamond, Professor of Molecular Microbiology, Pathology, and Immunology at Washington University. “Some people produce very high volumes and would likely still be protected from the new worrying varieties. However, some people, especially the elderly and immunocompromised, may not make high levels of antibodies. Will we see vaccines lose effectiveness and drug resistance merge? I hope not. It is clear, however, that as new variants emerge and spread, and possibly adapt our vaccine and antibody treatment strategies, we need to continuously monitor antibodies to make sure they continue to work. “