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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

Here's How The State's Relaxed Guidelines Will Affect Its Herd Immunity Goal

 June 16, 2021 at 10:37 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 Following the end of the state's tiered reopening system, many Californians are beginning to drop their masks as they go about their daily lives. The threat of COVID-19 however, still remains and with a significant portion of state residents without their first or second dose of the vaccine questions remain about how the state changing regulations will affect its progress towards herd immunity. Joining me now is Rebecca fielding Miller and epidemiologist and UC San Diego professor. Welcome Rebecca. Hello, thanks for having me. So how do you think lifting most of the states COVID restrictions, including the use of masks will affect the fight against the pandemic? You Speaker 2: 00:42 Know, I think that we've definitely reached a point where celebrating case rates in San Diego are very low, which is wonderful. And about 75% of people in our county have gotten at least their first shot, which is fantastic. I do think that it's important to keep in mind those that 25% of people still haven't gotten vaccinated and nobody under 12 has been vaccinated with a few very rare exceptions for research. And so we are not completely out of the woods yet. We also know that there are some people who are immunocompromised, maybe they are undergoing treatments for cancer or other diseases for whom the vaccines might not work as well. So it's great that numbers are so low. It's great that we can go about our daily business, but I do worry that removing the mask mandate might lead to a bit of a bump and might put certain people, especially kids and folks who are immunocompromised at risk Speaker 1: 01:32 Counties, health and human services agency recently reported that 83% of eligible San Diego ones are fully vaccinated. You know, the number is closer to 60%. If you include children younger than 12, what's the significance of this milestone for the spread of the day? Speaker 2: 01:49 I think it's absolutely wonderful. I think it is a huge accomplishment and the county should really be praised for getting so many people vaccinated so quickly, but it is people who are over the age of 12 and you know, many of us live with, or quite like people who are under the age of 12. And it does mean that last set of people, the 20%, the 25% who haven't gotten a shot, that's never at random, right? It's never just sort of a random selection. 20% of the county is not vaccinated. It's really often the people who are nervous about interacting with the healthcare system because they haven't been treated well in the past or people who think that, you know, COVID is not that big a risk. So I don't have to take, um, any sort of precautions at all. And ironically, they might put themselves at slightly higher risk. So I would have some caution about what might be happening if we have 20% of adults who could potentially be continuing this pandemic. And we know that, you know, every infection is an opportunity for a new variant that could potentially escape the vaccines that we already have. And that would be just terrible to set back all of our hard work that far, Speaker 1: 02:59 How much will our community protection from COVID-19 change. Once we hit herd immunity for all San Diego Ginza, including children, Speaker 2: 03:08 You think it's important to really remind ourselves we've thrown around this term, herd immunity a lot. And it's a really, really important term in public health. But I think we have a little bit confused it with the idea of eradication. So once seventy-five percent of San Diego hands are vaccinated, that's it COVID is eradicated in San Diego county. And we can all go about our days and, you know, blow candles and birthday cakes. Seventy-five percent of the county being vaccinated means that if somebody does get infected, whether it's a breakthrough infection from somebody who's vaccinated, or it's one of those 25% of adults who have chosen not to get vaccinated or it's anybody under the age of 12, if somebody does get infected, it means the probability that they can pass that infection onto somebody else is a lot lower. There's like a one in four chance that they can pass that infection onto the person next to them. And when the possibility that you can pass an infection onto somebody else, when that possibility drops really low, it means that the virus is essentially trapped in the one person who is infected it, can't escape to somebody else, but that's just probability. That's how it works at a community level. And so we can definitely see the potential for the virus jumping around a lot amongst these pockets of people who spend time together and who are less likely to get vaccinated because we spend time with people who are like us. Speaker 1: 04:29 And, and in short, you know, the danger of COVID variants continues to really weigh heavy on the minds of, of California residents and health officials. What kind of risks do these variants still pose? Even with so many vaccinated people? Speaker 2: 04:42 Certainly we've seen that B 1, 1 7 is now the predominant variant here in San Diego. We know that it is more infectious. And I think we talked a lot about this race between the vaccines and the variants. And we did a really great job. And I, I think we won that race with [inaudible], which is really exciting. We're also seeing what we're calling now. People might have heard of the Delta variant. This is the variant of the virus that we saw emerge in India in a pretty devastating way. One thing that we're seeing in the UK in particular is for people who have only gotten one shot that Delta variant can do a really good job of overcoming what that vaccine has already taught your immune system. So if people have only gotten one dose and they're hesitant now is a great time to get a second dose. We also see still to variant is a lot more infectious and it can be a lot more severe. And so we want first people to get vaccinated so that they do not get this. And we also want people to get vaccinated so that if they do get this, they're not the one who provides this virus with the opportunity to mutate even a little bit more so that it can overtake somebody's immune system. Even if they did all the studying, the test is just too hard and they can't overcome it. Speaker 1: 05:51 I've been speaking with Rebecca fielding Miller, an epidemiologist and UC San Diego professor, Rebecca. Thank you so much for joining us. Speaker 2: 05:59 Oh yeah. Thanks for having me Speaker 3: 06:01 In the, what you just heard. Speaker 1: 06:03 We said 83% of eligible San Diego ones are fully vaccinated. That number is actually 62.5%. We regret the air. Yeah.

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As many California residents prepare for a mask-less summer, some are wondering how the end of the state's tiered reopening will affect herd immunity goals.
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