Herd immunity may be hard to come by

To Pinellas County teacher Mary Gressle, herd immunity would mean more than just getting back to normal. It would mean safety for her.

"If I am leaning over their desk to help with something, I would feel like if they sneezed or breathed on me, that I would get sick."

That's why she can't wait for reports of new daily cases to dwindle. Right now, new coronavirus cases in Florida are stuck at an average of over 6,000 a day.

"It is almost a stalemate," said USF virologist Dr. Michael Teng. "The virus isn't really winning, but the vaccine isn't really winning either."

5,571 new Florida coronavirus cases reported Wednesday; 83 new deaths

The Florida Department of Health says the number of known cases of COVID-19 in the state rose by 5,571 Wednesday. According to the state's daily update, the total number of cases in Florida since the pandemic began is now 2,184,354.

Around 87 million nationwide are fully vaccinated, with another 47 million receiving one shot. 

Teng is concerned when he sees stats from an Axios poll, that shows 30 percent say they're unwilling to get vaccinated right away. Though that number is down from over 60 percent in October, it could still mean that 80 million of those eligible won't get a shot. 

"There are just some people who you will never change their mind," said Teng. "I have to believe in my heart that among those 30 percent, you could change their mind."

He says that will take public health campaigns, as well as enough time to show there aren't serious side effects of vaccines. 

Local health officials report rising COVID infections in every age group within Florida

Hillsborough County commissioners voted Wednesday to extend the local state of emergency for an additional seven days.

Some estimates say herd immunity will be reached when 70 percent are immune. That would mean about 232 million people in a nation of over 330 million. So far, 134 million have gotten at least one shot.

"We don't actually know what herd immunity looks like in terms of numbers," said Teng. "I don't think we will really have a great idea of what the number is until we get past that point and we can look back."

The Biden Administration has pledged a public education campaign of at least $50 million.

They even plan to count on local officials to get the word out, especially in areas that have shown large amounts of vaccine hesitancy.

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