South Carolina has ‘quite a ways to go’ before reaching COVID-19 herd immunity, public health director says

State - Regional

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WBTW) – South Carolina still has “quite a ways to go” before reaching so-called herd immunity for COVID-19, the state’s public health director said on Wednesday.

Dr. Brannon Traxler said the general rule of thumb is that 70% to 80% of people would need immunity to get to that point.

Currently, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, only 39.8% of eligible state residents have been fully vaccinated, while 46.4 % have received at least one dose of a vaccine. But there there is more to herd immunity than getting vaccinated.

“The percentage of people with immunity at this time in the state is not definitively known, as the duration of immunity following natural infection is not precisely known,” Traxler said.

She added that there is still a “considerable gap” that needs to be protected, either through getting vaccinated or natural immunity through an actual infection, before herd immunity can be attained.

Traxler also addressed concerns about the so-called Delta variant during Wednesday’s briefing, including whether unvaccinated people should be concerned. She said DHEC is continuing to monitor and follow guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As more COVID-19 cases are genetically sequenced at various laboratories across the country, Traxler said it’s expected that more variant cases will be confirmed, making it even more important to get vaccinated.

“At this time, the most important recommendation for controlling the spread of COVID-19 and its variants continues to be vaccination,” she said.

Traxler also continued to stress the importance of getting tested for COVID-19, especially amid reports that health officials in some areas are seeing more cold and flu cases. Many of the symptoms are the same, so it’s important to rule out COVID-19 whenever possible.

“Please get tested,” she said. “Don’t just assume that it’s something else.”

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