Michigan pushing to reach the 70% vaccine threshold

NOW: Michigan pushing to reach the 70% vaccine threshold

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BENTON HARBOR, Mich. -- 70 percent is what state officials are now saying is the goal of their “Vacc to Normal” plan announced last week, which has four vaccine milestones Michigan needs to reach before all COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

But, health officials continue to struggle with vaccine hesitancy, especially as they begin to reimplement the Johnson & Johnson shot.   

“We do have clinics running this week with open availability for appointments and we’re also welcoming walk-ins,” said Gillian Conrad, MPH, Communications Manager at the Berrien County Health Department.

It’s less than 24 hours before the health department’s next J&J clinic and attendance is still not at 100 percent, a concerning pattern they’ve been seeing for weeks, regardless of the provider. 

Saying now, we’re at a critical moment where health officials need to make it as convenient as possible to get the vaccine. 

“Whether that’s going directly to individuals at their workplace, offering evening times, or other ways to make sure we’re on site for anybody to get that vaccination,” said Conrad.

But, with many still questioning the shot, is herd immunity through vaccination still possible?

Vaccinations are rising and cases are lowering, but Michigan still has one of the worst surges in the country, while remaining as one of the strictest states.

“Detroit is an international hub, there’s a big airport, the African American community is affected, we have a lot of essential workers like people who work in factories and that led us to have stricter lockdowns,” said Ryan Malosh, Assistant Research Scientist at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. “What that means is there were a lot more people susceptible, they hadn’t been infected, they weren’t immune, we weren’t vaccinating the numbers we are now.”

Malosh says herd immunity through vaccination is still possible, but factors like variants and the long-term efficacy of the vaccine are casting some doubt.

“Herd immunity just means there’s enough people in the population not in that susceptible group, or in this case you can remove people from that pool by vaccinating them, it’ll be less likely that an outbreak happens,” said Malosh. “Those people who have been infected, they will contribute to herd immunity, whether it’s a one-to-one comparison is still up in the air.”

Malosh says despite there still being some questions about how to reach a herd immunity threshold, people shouldn’t be discouraged about the vaccine, as getting numbers up in regions – like Berrien County – prevents those pocket outbreaks.

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