HEALTH

Health leaders say COVID-19 focus shouldn’t be on herd immunity

May 24, 2021, 11:24 AM | Updated: Aug 2, 2022, 12:35 pm
Fauci COVID-19 response...
Doctor Anthony Fauci says it’s time to stop fixating on ‘herd immunity’ and simply focus on administrating as many COVID-19 vaccines as possible. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

SALT LAKE CITY — Doctor Anthony Fauci is pushing back on the conversation surrounding herd immunity and COVID-19. 

Is there a number for herd immunity?

President Biden’s top adviser on the virus says our focus should simply be on getting as many shots as possible into the arms of Americans.

He elaborated on the point when addressing a Senate Health Committee hearing last month.

“The threshold of herd immunity is a number we don’t know yet for this particular virus,” he explained. 

Here in Utah, health experts are sending a similar message.

Melissa Diamond, assistant director of the Utah Department of Health’s division of disease control and prevention, says there are too many unknowns remaining at this time to put a number on herd immunity. 

“We’re learning about the impact of variants and reinfection,” she told the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Interim Committee. “We know that immunity due to vaccines protects against known variants and produces a stronger immune response than natural infection. But we do not yet know with certainty, how long natural- or vaccine-induced immunity will last.”

Utah health leaders stay focused on shots

Rather than mirroring the message from Doctor Fauci, state health leaders say they’re focused on getting as many Utahns vaccinated as possible.

Rich Saunders, executive director of the state health department, told the committee they’ve set a target to vaccinate 70% of Utahns 16 and older.

As of now, just over 57% of that age group has received at least one dose of the vaccine. He points out though, they aren’t considered fully vaccinated until two weeks after receiving their final dose.

Complicating matters, when it comes to the possibility of herd immunity within Utah’s population, is the process of vaccinating children. Utah is the youngest state in the nation with almost 30% of the population under 18.

Right now, just under 11% of Utahns 12-18 are fully vaccinated.

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Health leaders say COVID-19 focus shouldn’t be on herd immunity