TAMPA, Fla. - Wouldn't it be nice to leave the mask at home, head over to Tropicana Field, and high-five some friends? Unfortunately, we won't have our field of dreams until there's herd immunity against COVID-19.
"We are going to have to learn to live with COVID-19," said Dr. Marissa Levine of USF Health. "We are going to have to start now."
Doctors say 75% to 90% of a population has to be immune before outbreaks aren't a big concern. Thanks to vaccines, diseases like measles, polio, and even the flu fit that bill.
But when it comes to COVID-19 in Florida, state stats show just over 4% have tested positive for the antibodies, which can mean a person has some level of immunity, but it's not guaranteed.
Even in New York, only about 20% of the population is thought to have antibodies.
"Even with the severe infection they went through, that whole couple of months where you had dire health problems, you still only have 20% that has antibodies," said Dr. Michael Teng of University of South Florida Health.
Even then, it's unclear as to how long those antibodies last and how well they might protect against infection.
Another hurdle to herd immunity is the sheer volume of vaccine doses needed to immunize the entire population.
Pfizer, a pharmaceutical company, has announced a vaccine it is testing showed positive signs in trials.
Still, it would take six months to make enough doses for less than a sixth of the country, especially considering that two doses would have to be administered to each person, Dr. Teng assumes.
"It is still going to take a long time even if we get the vaccine," said Teng. "They will have to ramp up production and have a lot of it around so we can get to herd immunity through a vaccine."
There are reportedly more than 100 efforts currently underway to produce an effective and safe vaccine. Pfizer believes it could make enough doses for half-a-billion people by the end of next year.
If you feel sick:
The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to email@example.com. Email responses will be sent during call center hours.
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