There was an event in late April that mostly went unremarked upon: the world passed one billion COVID-19 vaccinations. Incredible. A triumph of public health. And yet…no celebration, no announcement, no victory parade. Why not? Well, a fabulous start is just a start—the global population is approaching eight million. And even as the billion-shot mark was passed, the world’s gaze was taken by those heartrending images out of India. So, here’s the question: Is the Covid outbreak going to just keep happening in one country after another? Said another way, Is the world going to keep being forced to watch Covid’s Traveling Horror Show?
We asked epidemiologist Dr. Kyle Freese of STChealth when the world will ramp up to herd immunity. He said this: “I’ve never been a fan of all the talk of reaching herd immunity. It’s not a tenable goal. For herd immunity, you need a relatively stable pathogen, something predictable, like measles, that gives you time to vaccinate most of the population. But Covid-19 is mutating fairly rapidly — like the flu. Taken together with global spread and many asymptomatic infections we run the risk of COVID-19 becoming an endemic disease that keeps evolving and circulating around the world; if new variants keep appearing, herd immunity is probably not going to be reachable, at least in the traditional sense.”
Forget herd immunity. But rather than giving in to giving in, Dr. Freeze offered this uplifting response:
“When I get in a glass-half-empty mood, I tell myself this: We don’t have the luxury of thinking small. We have to think globally. Yes, people are exhausted and they have a right to be. But we have to find another gear. I don’t want to raise my kids where it’s normal to live with the threat of underlying disease. What can we do to overcome this?
“Think of the tremendous successes we’ve had. Over the last few decades we have made tremendous strides in reducing childhood diseases. Think of all we have learned over the last year. And think of a billion vaccinations in just about five months. In public health, we learn as we go. And we’ve learned that we have the ability to do this. And we will. It can’t just be the work of a few scientists, we must have the buy-in of everyone.”
About the company:
As key members of the immunization ecosystem, STChealth has spent 33 years developing public health immunization systems used across the U.S. and internationally. And now, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, STChealth is being called to action to enable consumer-facing digital test results and immunity status, increase data exchange connections to prepare for vaccine distribution and administration, arm our pharmacy network with the tools for lab reporting and case management, and assist providers, employers, pharmacies and Public Health with analytics to support decision making. STChealth’s National Immunization Data Exchange Network processes over 1 million immunization events daily, delivering valuable decision support and ultimately resulting in closing immunization gaps in care.