More than half of eligible San Diegans are now fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, offering evidence that we are approaching the so-called herd immunity. So, could the end be near? According to the doctor NBC 7 spoke to, the pandemic will end but the coronavirus is probably here to stay.
For a long time, we’ve heard the end of the pandemic be attributed to two words: herd immunity. Time and time again public health officials have stressed that immunizing enough people would eventually stop the spread of the coronavirus.
“It’s kind of like creating dead ends for the virus, not letting it go anywhere,” said Dr. Paul Schalch-Lepe, Otolaryngologist.
Health officials have estimated anywhere from 80 to 85% of the population needs to be vaccinated to reach herd immunity. So, as we move closer to that goal. What happens next?
“If we reach a certain percentage then we will really curtail the virus from continuing to spread in the way it was before and thus remain more controllable and less likely to cause a pandemic type of infection,” Schalch-Lepe said.
Will the coronavirus ever go away?
“Probably not. We’re looking at a situation where it can be like the flu, the virus will continue to come back in one form or fashion but without causing widespread infection,” Schalch-Lepe said.
Schalch-Lepe says we can expect the symptoms caused by the virus to also remain the same.
“I don’t think the virus will change in the nature of the type of infection that it causes on the person but the key is that if we develop this herd immunity then we will have less patients that get infected so statistically speaking, we will have less patients that are likely to develop severe disease,” Schalch-Lepe said.
Bottomline, the coronavirus is here to stay but an end to the pandemic is possible through more vaccinations.
“We are on the brink of reopening the economy, opening the state, we would not have reached this point without the vaccination campaign we have going on right now,” Schalch-Lepe said.
Currently, roughly 69% of the targeted population is fully vaccinated.
“We’re really proud of how far we’ve come but we also realize we have a long way to go,” said Nancy Maldonado, Director of the Latino Health Coalition.
And community groups who have been working hard to vaccinate residents aren’t letting up.
“All of these efforts are still going on, including handing out PPE, making sure people know COVID isn’t over, we still need to take precautions, our promotoras are still out every single weekend,” Maldonado said.
Shalch-lepe says if we don’t reach heard immunity, we could risk another outbreak.
“It’s a lethal infection, it’s very severe and we still need to continue to take it very seriously,” Schalch-Lepe said.