What will it take for Michigan to reach herd immunity? Here's what public health leaders are saying

Posted at 6:18 AM, Apr 28, 2021

(WXYZ) — Since the rollout of the vaccine this winter, Michigan has been eyeing one very important number: 70 percent.

That's what public health leaders say we need to reach that sought-after herd immunity, meaning the bulk of us are immune from the virus. So far, 35 percent of Michiganders 16 and older are fully vaccinated, compared to 29 percent of the entire country.

So, what's it going to take to hit 70 percent and what's standing in our way?

There are a couple of big challenges doctors know we will continue to face when it comes to getting shots in arms in Michigan. One of the biggest ones? Trusting the shot.

At this point in Michigan, most people eager to receive the vaccine have gotten it. Dr. Nick Gilpin, medical director of infection prevention and epidemiology at Beaumont Health, said the easy part of the vaccine distribution is over.

"I think we're starting to see that enthusiasm for vaccines dipping," Dr. Gilpin said.

Andre Chapman is someone without a lot of enthusiasm for the vaccine right now. He hasn't gotten his shot and has no immediate plans to do so.

"It just happened so fast," Chapman said.

He's not alone; the pace of vaccine development is the second most cited concern for Americans not inclined to get a shot, based on data compiled by the Pew Research Center last month.

The most cited concern? Side effects. A concern that's only grown since the 10-day pause of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, following reports of a rare blood clotting disorder. Over the weekend, the FDA and CDC lifted the pause.

As Michigan hits the halfway mark to 70 percent vaccinated, we are still battling hesitancy and a decline in people getting shots.

Acsension MyHealth Urgent Care in Troy estimates 40 percent of vaccine appointments are being canceled or rescheduled, and up to 20 percent are no-shows.

Still, the head of the state's health department is confident we will reach herd immunity at some point.

“We knew we were going to get to a point where we would see people who were ready and willing to go anywhere to get a vaccine and then we have groups of people who are amenable to getting the vaccine but maybe it needs to be a little bit easier, more convenient," MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel said.

Michigan also now appears to be turning a corner in cases and hospitalizations after a record-breaking month, but doctors say that progress is still dependent on people getting their shot as COVID variants keep growing.

"We're still in a period of substantial community transmission," Dr. Gilpin said. "If we allowed this virus to continue to spread unmitigated, other variants could emerge."

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