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Some parts of the U.S. are getting close to herd immunity, expert says

The U.S. could reach herd immunity soon. Some parts of the U.S. are already getting close to it

Syringes containing the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are pictured in Utah.
Syringes containing the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are pictured at the Mountain America Expo Center in Sandy on Thursday, April 22, 2021.
Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, recently told “Meet the Press” that parts of the United States are already closing in on herd immunity — a welcomed bit of good news for the country as it tries to tackle COVID-19.

Collins said experts “don’t really quite know” how many people need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to hit herd immunity, but there’s been a long-standing belief that 70% to 80% of the U.S. population needs to be vaccinated in order for it to happen.

  • “We’re not there yet. You can see some places in the country that are getting close to that with a combination of having had a lot of cases of COVID, which also provides you with some immunity, plus the vaccines,” Collins told “Meet the Press.”

What about Utah?

In Utah, for example, health officials said over the weekend that about 27.2% of all Utah residents are now fully vaccinated, with 12% having gotten their first dose, as the Deseret News reported. If you factor in acquired immunity from people who got COVID-19, Utah officials suggest the total immunity rate for the state is close to 50%.

States struggle with vaccinations

Of course, Collins admitted there are parts of the country struggling to hit high numbers of vaccination.

  • “There are other places that are way behind, and those are the places we all worry about as the next hot spot,” he said.
  • “You can see Michigan has gone through a terrible time in the last month. They are now getting past that, which is really encouraging. But what’s the next one? You can look at the map and say, ‘Where are vaccines lagging?’ Those are the places to worry about.”

Greatest risk to herd immunity

Health officials — including Collins and Dr. Anthony Fauci — recently said vaccine hesitancy prevents the greatest risk to reaching herd immunity, according to The Wall Street Journal. If enough people don’t get vaccinated, the U.S. will struggle to hit the herd immunity goal, which could put off the return to normal.

  • “If we’re going to be able to put COVID-19 behind us, we need to have all Americans take part in getting us to that point,” Collins told “Meet the Press.”