Is Ohio close to herd immunity in the long fight against COVID? Ohio health expert says yes

Posted at 6:46 AM, Jan 06, 2022

CLEVELAND — There doesn't seem to be an escape from COVID-19 as Ohio Health Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Joseph Gastaldo ensures COVID-19 cases will continue to rise.

"It's very cavalier to make the generic statement that omicron is just a mild case of COVID, so we don't have to worry about it,” he said.

Yet, numbers show more Ohioans are vaccinated. So far, about 65% of Cuyahoga County has had at least one dose, according to the state's dashboard.

So how close are we to herd immunity? The mark in 2020 was 70% of the population.

“In the aftermath of a lot of omicron, also in the context of people being vaccinated and receiving boosters, we’re going to be ending up with much more significant part of our population with immunity,” said Gastaldo.

Gastaldo says you do build up some level of immunity from having COVID, but it varies from person to person and gives shorter protection compared to getting vaccinated.

“I think talking about herd immunity in the context of where we are now in the pandemic is kind of a moot point we’re talking about immunity from infection or immunity from severe disease. In the context of giving people vaccines, in the context of more people having COVID, especially with the omicron variant, there are going to be more people who have that long-lasting memory cell immunity, which gives protection against severe disease,” he explained. “When your memory cells activate, you clear the virus quicker, you're not as contagious compared to someone who was not vaccinated. If you do develop symptoms, you're very likely just to stay home with a mild cold or flu symptoms and it's very unlikely that you're going to have severe disease."

In the meantime, the surge we're seeing right now isn't expected to ease up just yet. As for hospitalization cases, Gastaldo said the numbers won’t drop until after cases peak in communities.

“I really don’t see numbers coming down in the hospital until two weeks after we peaked in the community," he said.

RELATED: DeWine strongly recommends students mask up, but says schools going virtual is a mistake