Health experts doubt NJ will reach herd immunity, say more must be done to control COVID-19
Many officials from Gov. Phil Murphy to President Joe Biden have said that herd immunity against COVID-19 needs to be reached for things to return to a sense of normalcy.
Some health experts are now ditching herd immunity as a possible threshold and are focusing on other ways to control the virus.
Hoboken hosted a clinic on Tuesday with 100 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. They only administered about 60 doses between appointments and walk-ins. The lack of demand is what has many concerned about meeting the goal of 70% immunity by the summer.
“[Getting the vaccine] feels good. I did it because it feels like a passport to open things up,” says Hoboken resident Tyler Schott.
Schott says getting the vaccine is one step closer for New Jersey having 70% of the state’s population being vaccinated by late June. Health experts say that this may not be possible.
“Those calculations come from how efficiently the virus is transmitted and was based on the original strain that came from Wuhan,” says Rutgers Medical School epidemiologist Professor Stanley Weiss. “The calculations based on the strain out of UK show you need 80%-90% immunity to reach herd immunity.”
Weiss says that he is doubtful that New Jersey or the U.S. will reach herd immunity, especially with so may still hesitant to get the vaccine, and others skipping their second dose.
“You can lessen the effects of the pandemic and get things too slow. To do that you need to have as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible,” Weiss says.
Weiss says he applauds the president and the governor for their ambitious vaccination plans. He says he is hopeful that Pfizer expanding eligibility to younger teens will increase immunity levels. But he also says that more must be done and faster on both the state and federal level to encourage and educate.
“The fact that we now have open slots where people can get vaccinated on the same day is great news. But it’s also terrible news because it means the vaccine we have available isn’t getting used and deployed as rapidly as we potentially can,” he says.
Weiss says that just having the vaccine available isn’t sufficient. He says that things like community outreach, more transportation assistance or anything to make people more comfortable and convenient are key.