New York Daily News
No ‘herd immunity’ means best get vax!
Even as authorities continue a historic effort to vaccinate people against COVID, New Yorkers may have to accept that the dreaded virus is here to stay, city health officials suggested Monday.
They were commenting on a new New York Times report noting “herd immunity” — in which the entire population is immune to the virus — may never become a reality in the United States. The article came as vaccination rates have been declining nationwide, prompting scientists to conclude herd immunity may never occur in the short term or beyond.
Mayor de Blasio likened COVID to the flu, that is, a seasonal malady that health officials have managed to contain.
“For a long time, we’ve all understood that COVID will become, if all continues at this pace ... like the flu or other diseases that we’re used to seasonally and we’ll have to deal with it — but we can deal with it,” he said at a press conference.
Last week, he set July 1 as a target for the city to completely reopen. At the time, he said the city was still working on health precautions that would remain in effect even after the “full reopening.”
New variants of COVID that are considered more infectious than the original strain have complicated efforts to achieve herd immunity, noted Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi.
Those make it “significantly less likely that we will achieve the formal epidemiological definition of herd immunity,” he said.
“We shouldn’t let that terminology distract us from the big picture here, which is that higher levels of population immunity or what some people term ‘community immunity’ will still have major benefits,” Chokshi continued, adding that the vaccination effort to date has led to drastic reductions in hospitalizations and deaths due to the virus.
More than 6.6 million COVID vaccine doses had been given out citywide as of Monday morning, according to de Blasio’s office. At the end of April, there was an average of 94 COVID hospitalizations per day — down from a recent peak of around 400 in February — according to the city Health Department. Daily COVID deaths were around 30, down from nearly 90 in February.
“Herd immunity” allows people who haven’t been vaccinated to live free of the virus. If the population never reaches that level of immunity, that makes it more important for individuals to get vaccinated themselves, said Dr. Mitchell Katz, head of the city-run hospital system.
“What herd immunity really means is that so many people are vaccinated that those people that are not vaccinated get a kind of free ride. They’re protected by the fact that everybody else is vaccinated and can’t spread the disease,” he said.
“If we’re not at herd immunity, that means that it’s everybody’s responsibility to get vaccinated,” Katz concluded. “They cannot depend on other people to protect them.”