Grand Strand doctor stresses keeping ‘eyes on the prize’ on path to COVID-19 herd immunity

Published: Apr. 1, 2021 at 3:29 PM EDT
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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - A Horry County doctor is weighing in on what could be setting the Grand Strand back from COVID-19 herd immunity.

For starters, it’s about supply. A challenge the area is dealing with is how many vaccines it’s getting at once. The sooner more supply arrives to give to more people, the quicker herd immunity will be reached.

“I realize there are difficulties getting hundreds of millions of people vaccinated. I get that, but no doubt the more vaccines we get in a shorter time period, the quicker we will reach some level of immunity,” Dr. Paul Richardson, vice president of medical affairs at Conway Medical Center, said.

Richardson notes that many researchers are suggesting 70% to 80% of the population will need to be vaccinated or previously infected to reach herd immunity.

He said to achieve herd immunity it’s more than just vaccinations, but also people who’ve already had COVID-19.

Richardson wants everyone to be aware that all viruses change, such as what has happened with COVID-19. Some health experts said the variants may lower the effectiveness of vaccines.

Still, as research and time reveals how variants may impact herd immunity, Richardson said time will also reveal the possible need for a booster shot in addition to the vaccine.

While it’s still unclear how long immunity will last, many wonder if coronavirus vaccines will become a yearly norm.

“We do get flu shots every year for a reason because not necessarily variants, but we know there are different strains of the flu that emerge,” Richardson said. “We very well may require a boost, to be determined. That still doesn’t stop what we need to do now.”

The now is the vaccine. Richardson said everyone needs to “keep our eyes on the prize” and that’s getting vaccinated.

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