Sound Publishing file photo
Remi Frederick, a Village Green employee, receives her first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Jan. 26 in Federal Way.

Sound Publishing file photo Remi Frederick, a Village Green employee, receives her first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Jan. 26 in Federal Way.

County health officer looks to community immunity instead of herd immunity

Herd immunity may be unlikely to reach King County anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean that people living in the county won’t be able to resume something similar to a pre-pandemic life sooner.

That’s according to Jeff Duchin, the county’s public health officer, who in a press conference on April 30 said he’s focusing on reaching community immunity instead. The rundown is basically this: herd immunity means COVID-19 can’t spread effectively from person to person across the population because enough people have immunity, either from a vaccine or natural infection.

It sounds ideal, but most experts think that to reach herd immunity — long the stated end goal of curtailing the pandemic — some 80% to 90% of people must be vaccinated or previously infected. That’s likely to remain a far-off goal, considering that only 38.9% of Washingtonians ages 16 and older have been fully vaccinated as of May 5. And with vaccine skepticism rippling across the country, it’s unclear when or if the U.S. will reach herd immunity.

There are currently no vaccines approved for use in children, and teens ages 12 to 15 have yet to receive vaccines after the Pfizer shot was approved last month for this age range. Duchin said considering 20% of the population is children, it’s unlikely herd immunity could be reached just from that barrier alone.

Despite this, Duchin said King County could reach community immunity if at least 70% of people receive vaccines or have already been infected, allowing their bodies to produce antibodies.

“If we get to 70%, we have 70% coverage,” Duchin said during the press conference. “We have 70% community immunity. That’s a substantial level of protection. The higher level of protection we have, the less disease we will have, and the more likely it is we’ll be able to re-engage in our pre-COVID lifestyles.”

There’s also the problem of new variants emerging that could be more infectious. Already, there are several variants circulating worldwide and in Washington state that are transmitted more easily. These include variants that initially emerged in the U.K., South Africa, Brazil and California.

Even with these concerns, Duchin said the county doesn’t have to reach herd immunity to resume life in a way similar to before COVID-19. Undertaking measures like improving ventilation in buildings, being cautious during face to face interactions and wearing masks in high-risk situations could be ways to help ease back into normal life while staying safe.

Duchin made it clear he can’t predict what the future holds, or how the virus and countermeasures will evolve over the course of years. The situation globally is also of concern because the virus can easily travel from country to country. If the virus is uncontrolled anywhere, it can allow new variants to emerge that can threaten people locally. Because of this, Duchin said the U.S. has a strong interest in making sure there’s a robust vaccine supply everywhere in the world.

In King County, a fourth wave of the pandemic has been ongoing since early March as cases increased. Gov. Jay Inslee on May 4 announced that no counties would be moving phases for two weeks under the Roadmap to Recovery plan. The two-week pause will allow public health officials time to see whether cases have hit a plateau, or if they will continue to rise.

“We are at the intersection of progress and failure, and we cannot veer from the path of progress,” Inslee said in a press release on May 4. “Our economy is beginning to show early signs of growth thanks to some of our great legislative victories and we know vaccines are the ticket to further reopening — if we adhere to public health until enough people are vaccinated.”

Vaccines are available to all Washingtonians ages 16 and up. Appointments can be found at VaccineLocator.doh.wa.gov.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@rentonreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.rentonreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in News

Police vehicle damaged after collision (Photo Credit: Renton Police Department)
Renton Police still looking to arrest suspect after officer involved hit and run

RPD spokesperson said suspect fled on foot after causing officer’s injury.

King County logo
Auditors find racial disparities in King County contracts

BIPOC-owned businesses earn contract bids at a much lower rate than white-owned businesses.

Police lights
Renton man with stab wound found in Federal Way

The man had been stabbed during an altercation earlier in the day and had received medical treatment for his injuries.

T
Auburn police officer’s murder trial expected to be scheduled soon

Jeffrey Nelson is one of the first cops charged under new I-940 guidelines.

Graphic rendering of ADU design used for Renton’s Permit Ready Accessory Dwelling Unit program (courtesy of City of Renton)
Backyard cottages might offer a partial solution to King County’s housing problem

Some cities are embracing the solution better than others.

Photos by Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing
King County Council approves $631 million emergency COVID budget

Staff reports The King County Council approved a seventh round of emergency… Continue reading

Some of the artists to be featured at the May 29th BLM Artwalk (photo credit: Christain Jones)
Renton to host Black Lives Matter Artwalk this weekend

This Saturday’s event will feature a collection of visual and performing artists of color.

Flames attack the hillside in Bonney Lake on Sept. 8, 2020. (East Pierce Fire & Rescue photo)
WA firefighters brace for potentially busy weekend

Washington state Department of Natural Resources firefighters were preparing for what could… Continue reading

Sanjeev Yonzon (courtesy of Sanjeev Yonzon's campaign)
Sanjeev Yonzon to run for Renton City Council

Editor’s note: This is a press release from the candidate’s campaign.

Interpretive guide Shell Michaluk-Bergan stands on boardwalk to Bird Island (photo credit: Cameron Sheppard)
Exploring Renton’s hidden natural gems

Interpretive guides with Coast and Forest aim to promote appreciation of natural habitat in the area

Marvin Rosete courtesy of Marvin Rosete
Marvin Rosete seeks Renton City Council seat, position 2

Editor’s note: This is a press release from the candidate’s campaign.

Photos of Kaloni Bolton. (Courtesy of Kristina Williams)
She couldn’t breathe: Child dies from asthma attack at Renton medical clinic

Family of Kaloni Bolton, 12, seeks answers as to why staff couldn’t treat her.