Herd immunity possible as vaccination access expands

Posted at 7:46 PM, May 12, 2021

COLORADO — More than 2.2 million Coloradans are fully vaccinated, but the likelihood of reaching herd immunity with COVID-19 is something that's still months away, if at all.

Public health leaders say the key is getting about 70 percent of the state's population fully vaccinated, or recently recovered from COVID-19.

Right now around 35 percent of Coloradans are vaccinated. With the expanded emergency use authorization for Pfizer's vaccine to 12-15 year-olds, it could play a role in how quickly the state gets to herd immunity.

"Even if vaccination rates slow considerably, we anticipate that sometime in June, we could reach between 60 and 70 percent of Coloradans vaccinated with their first dose or having immunity after contracting COVID-19," Jessica Bralish, CDPHE Communications Director said.

According to Bralish, 48 percent of Coloradans are currently immune to SARS-CoV-2.

The need to vaccinate Coloradans comes as the state ramps up efforts with walk-up clinics, and businesses offer incentives.

"Herd immunity is a great goal," Dr. Lisa Miller, professor of epidemiology with the Colorado school of public health said, "if we reached herd immunity, it would mean that the Coronavirus doesn't really have a place to go."

The key is vaccinating Coloradans. While those who have recently contracted the virus can also play a role in reaching herd immunity- Miller acknowledges there are limitations with that.

"The problem with really counting on that as protection is that we don't really know how well people are protected by infection," Miller said.

Still, leaders with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment say herd immunity is not out of reach.

With all adults and Coloradans 16 and older eligible for vaccines, public health officials say already the state's elderly population demonstrates the efficacy of the vaccine.

"Colorado county-level data shows a clear correlation between high vaccination rates and low infection rates. We’re starting to see population-level protection from these vaccines resulting in decreased transmission, but we still have a ways to go," Bralish said.

State public health leaders say there's uncertainty based on variants appearing in the state and figuring out how transmissible those variants and the virus are.

Dr. Miller acknowledges it's a personal choice for Coloradans deciding to get the vaccine, but encourages Coloradans to talk to their primary care physician to decide what's best for them.

The possibility of reaching herd immunity is something many are looking to as life gets back to some form of normal. For Cosmo Solano, a magician in Colorado Springs, the easing restrictions coming as more people get vaccinated are welcome.

His magic act has been entertaining audiences in Colorado Springs for years. With the pandemic, Solano hasn't been performing.

"We're just anxious to get going," Solano said, he plans to open Cosmo's Magic Theater in a new location in northwest Colorado Springs.

Solano plans to make adjustments as needed as restrictions and herd immunity is reached. He remains optimistic and excited as he gets back to doing what he loves- performing.

Keeping his audience safe is something top of mind- but with live performance, there will be changes.

Typically, if there are any empty seats- the crowd will be moved inward, closer to the stage for Solano to feed off of the energy of the audience.

With social distancing, it will be different.

"We're going to have everybody separated and I don't know how that's going to be," Solano said, adding he feels it's something he will adapt to.

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