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Dallas reaches herd immunity when 80% are immune to COVID. We are at 35%



DALLAS, TX – When are we getting back to normal? This is a question I’m asked almost daily. For family and friends in Dallas County, the short answer is, hopefully soon. But the answer is dependent on everyone eligible getting a COVID-19 vaccine. We don’t have much time and we’re in a sprint to get there ahead of potential new virus mutations and strains.

In March, the Parkland Center for Clinical Innovation (the organization I lead) forecasted that Dallas County will reach herd immunity by mid-June. Herd immunity is possible when 80% of the county’s residents have either recovered from COVID-19 or received vaccinations.

The key word in our herd immunity forecast is “vaccinations.” We don’t want our community reaching herd immunity through the dangerous path of COVID infection and recovery. The cost in lives, resources, and long-term individual health is far too steep to wait for residents to become infected and (hopefully) recover. The simplest, safest and most effective way to reach herd immunity is, without question, vaccines.

While we’ve made great progress, having vaccinated to date over 35% of the Dallas County population (over 73% of those ages 65-plus), vaccination rates have been dropping, despite ample supply. In recent weeks, we’ve averaged 45,000 vaccines administered per week, down from the mid- and upper-60s in March. These reductions are already pushing the herd immunity projections to late June and could push them into July.

The numbers unequivocally tell the story. First and foremost, vaccinations are safe and effective. The evidence is overwhelmingly positive. The Wall Street Journal nicely summarized the results: out of 66 million individuals initially vaccinated, the chance of getting COVID after that is 0.008%; the chance of getting hospitalized is 0.00056%; and the chance of dying from COVID-19 is 0.0001%. Wow!

Locally, since we’ve vaccinated over 912,000 people and administered over 1.48 million shots, we are already seeing the benefits through a dramatic reduction in COVID-19 risk. According to our Vulnerability Index, an analytics program that measures each Dallas County ZIP code’s level of risk for COVID-19 infection, the most at-risk ZIP code, 75211, has dropped its vulnerability rating from nearly 200 to under 12. The remainder of Dallas County shows similar reductions in infection risk. However, the last remaining obstacle to reaching herd immunity via vaccinations is vaccine hesitancy. The most common initially vocalized concerns are no longer barriers:

– “I don’t want to be a guinea pig.” In the U.S. 200 million people have already received a vaccine.

– “Is it safe?” Yes. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have had low levels of adverse reactions reported and have accounted for 94% of the Dallas County vaccinations administered. Also, the fact that the Food and Drug Administration immediately paused the Johnson and Johnson vaccinations when they observed that six cases out of 6.8 million experienced adverse events should give us confidence in their responsiveness to potential safety concerns.

– “I don’t want to wait in long lines.” New sites are popping up each day, with extended and weekend hours — and no lines.

Our public health effort is all about creating an environment where co-workers, family and friends can get together without fear of illness. Just the simple act of having a backyard barbecue has been hazardous. But with each of us getting our vaccinations, returning to our grills is just around the corner.

If you are like me, when you get your first COVID-19 shot, you’ll feel a great sense of accomplishment, pride, relief and hope. But remember that your body still needs up to six weeks — and a second dose — to build your immunity. It is important to continue to practice COVID protective measures until your body has had the chance to fully respond to the vaccine.

If you haven’t been part of Dallas’ push to herd immunity by signing up for a vaccine, you owe it to your family and friends to do so now. If you are worried about the vaccine’s effects or effectiveness, go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or Dallas County Health and Human Services websites, or talk to your doctor or a friend who received their vaccine. If you educate yourself on vaccination benefits, I’m confident you will find what scientists and doctors have found ― vaccinations work and save lives.