A dangerous concept has been misunderstood and circulated on social media: let everyone be exposed to COVID-19 and establish herd immunity quickly without a vaccine. Using the CDC Case Surveillance Data Report is the best way to compare outcomes in the United States to Malheur County. The report “describes demographic characteristics, underlying health conditions, symptoms, and outcomes among 1,320,488 laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases individually reported to CDC during January 22–May 30, 2020.”
If the public fail to protect each other from COVID-19 and enough people were infected to establish herd immunity without a vaccine, what would that mean in numbers for our population?
- Some estimates require 70-90% of the population develop sufficient antibodies for herd immunity. (We still don’t even know that a positive COVID-19 test means that you have enough antibodies to not be reinfected.) Let’s settle on 80% of our population for herd immunity as an average.
- 80% of our approximate population of 30,000 is 24,000. Hypothetically, 24,000 people would need to have COVID-19 in Malheur County to establish herd immunity before a vaccine.
- The CDC data shows that 14% of cases required hospitalization and 5% of cases died.
- Of the hypothetical 24,000 people in Malheur County who would be infected, that means that 3,360 people would require hospitalization.
- Of the hypothetical 24,000 people in Malheur County who would be infected, that means that 1,200 people would die. (Even if only .5% of people died, that would be 120 lives lost that could have been saved.)
The CDC report shows that “among COVID-19 cases, the most common underlying health conditions were cardiovascular disease (32%), diabetes (30%), and chronic lung disease (18%). Hospitalizations were six times higher and deaths 12 times higher among those with reported underlying conditions compared with those with none reported.”
The Oregon Health Authority reports that 53.7% of adults in Malheur County have one or more chronic underlying health conditions. This means our population is at high risk of severe cases of COVID-19.
Help us dispel the myth that herd immunity without vaccine is an option. We must flatten the curve of new COVID-19 cases (we’re at 287 cases today with a 12.4% positive rate) to buy us more time. We all need to act to prevent the spread so our hospital system is not overwhelmed and lives are not lost.