ERIE COUNTY, N.Y. (WKBW) — University at Buffalo's Professor and Chief of Infectious Disease Dr. Thomas Russo said herd immunity is the key to ending the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It's been guestimated that we need probably 70-80% of the population to have protection against the coronavirus," Dr. Russo said.
Dr. Russo said there is already a good amount of individuals immune to the coronavirus already.
"If you do the math, we probably have 25-30% of people that have already been infected here in Erie County. Then you add another 10% of individuals that received at least one shot of the vaccine, we probably have about 40% of individuals here in Erie County that presently are minimally susceptible to getting infected. It's still well short of the levels we need to achieve herd immunity, however, given the fact that there's a diminishing number of hosts the virus can effectively cause infection, this is a major contributor for driving our numbers down," Dr. Russo said.
Dr. Russo said people have been infected with the COVID-19 vaccine that tests have not confirmed.
"I suspect that, relative to the documented cases, the number is probably four to five times greater," Dr. Russo said.
Combine that with vaccination, Dr. Russo said that's likely why positive rates across New York are trending downward.
"Package that together with people behaving well and I think that is explaining why right now we’re on a good run," Dr. Russo said.
Dr. Russo said it can be a matter of months before New York reaches herd immunity levels.
"I’m hoping, and I’m an optimist, that with the anticipated increase in supply of vaccines and the ongoing significant demand, that we’ll get the critical number of individuals vaccinated sometime by June or maybe the beginning of July," Dr. Russo said.
Dr. Russo said even though as much as 30% of Erie County has natural immunity to the coronavirus, it's critical those individuals get vaccinated to optimize the degree of protection against COVID-19. He said reaching the best level of herd immunity comes through vaccination.
"We would like to achieve immunity though vaccination, so we want to include those individuals that have already been infected. I think the bottleneck in supply is going to be significantly alleviated over the next month and will increase the amount of doses available significantly over the next few weeks. Hopefully, the Johnson and Johnson vaccine will be approved sometime in the next week or so," Dr. Russo said.
Dr. Russo said the Johnson and Johnson vaccine approval could be a game changer in vaccinating the public quickly.
"The Johnson and Johnson vaccine will be helpful on two fronts. First, it's a single dose, so the logistics are much easier. Also, it's going to significantly increase supply so it'll really help decrease those waiting lines of people who are desperately waiting to be vaccinated," Dr. Russo said.
According to ABC, 100 million doses of the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine could be ready by June, pending FDA approval.