COLUMBUS, OH – As the COVID-19 pandemic enters its second year, many are wondering: when will the pandemic be declared over?
Health organizations and medical experts have suggested that the pandemic will be over when the US reaches herd immunity. A projection by the New York Times envisages this for the USA between May and October.
But when will Ohio achieve herd immunity?
The World Health Organization defines herd immunity as the event that “a significant part” of the population is immune to a disease. Some diseases, such as measles, require 95% of the population to be immunized to achieve herd protection, according to the WHO.
The percentage of the population required to achieve herd immunity for COVID-19 is unknown, but it is estimated to be 60-80% of the population. However, as new variants of the virus emerge, the herd immunity threshold could be higher, said Dr. Michael Oglesbee, director of the Ohio State Infectious Disease Institute.
“The initial estimates were around 60 percent, but I think some of the new flavors may have to go up somewhere in the 80 percent range,” Oglesbee said.
According to a 70 percent estimate for herd immunity and current vaccination trends provided to WCPO by the Ohio Department of Health, most Ohioans will receive at least one vaccination for COVID-19 by early July. However, it will take longer for Ohio to achieve full immunity.
With this data, 70% of Ohioans will have some COVID-19 immunity to a vaccine by July 7th.
However, there is a significant segment of the Ohio population who are likely already partially or fully immune to COVID-19. Those are the one million confirmed COVID cases and the suspected three million cases, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
According to the CDC, there can be two to five times as many COVID cases as officially reported. With a conservative estimate that there are three times as many COVID cases as reported in Ohio, we are reaching around three million people with some or complete immunity.
A new schedule can be drawn up taking into account these immune subjects and the rate of vaccinations completed.
Ohioans with full immunity
With just the current rate of vaccine completion alone, Ohio wouldn’t reach 70 percent of the population with full immunity until October 27th. As suspected cases are added to the fully vaccinated cases, that date will be postponed to July 5th.
A prolonged vaccination attempt could actually weaken Ohio’s chances of herd immunity. So it’s important that the vaccines are given as soon as possible, Oglesbee said.
“The longer this takes, the more immunity will wear off,” said Oglesbee. “So let’s say I was infected three months ago.” I was not. I’m setting up a scenario. If I had been infected three months ago, my immunity would diminish over time and I could become vulnerable again. And so that magic number of 60 to 80 percent becomes harder to pin down. ”
Assuming vaccination rates, infection rates, and supply remain relatively constant, July appears to be the start of herd immunity to COVID-19 in Ohio. This date may change due to vaccination fluctuations or new variations, but it looks like summer could mark the start of herd immunity in Ohio.