Possibility of herd immunity in Alabama by late spring

Updated: Feb. 24, 2021 at 3:40 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Today a UAB epidemiologist said Alabama could be close to herd immunity by early spring but there is an important word of caution.

Dr. Suzanna Judd said the numbers are trending in the right direction to show more people are getting vaccinated in addition to people who have had unreported cases of COVID-19 and recovered.

“It could be ten to one. Ten people had COVID, did not have a positive test but still have immunity to COVID,” Judd said.

Judd said in Alabama that number could be five to one or three to one. She said 500,000 have been tested but there could be as many as 1.5 million who had the infectious disease but were never tested. Throw in the vaccinations number and that’s why she believes herd immunity is possible soon. But there are factors to consider.

“It depends on the rate of vaccination. It depends on how many people who have antibodies who didn’t have a positive test and it depends if the virus mutates,” Judd said.

The increasing number of variant viruses around the world is a threat. Dr. Judd said getting a vaccine shot is still better and safer to act against the virus than developing antibodies by catching the disease. She also says achieving herd immunity doesn’t mean you can throw away your masks and stop social distancing.

“We still don’t know if the vaccine blocks transmission, that is why if you have been vaccinated you should continue to wear masks because you could still spread the virus if you come into contact with it,” Judd said.

Dr. Judd said only when numbers come way down and hospitalization much more than they are now would it be okay to stop wearing masks or social distancing. She hopes we could see herd immunity by late spring or early summer but a lot of things still have to happen.

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