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Detroit Joins the Herd

How Detroit is Rolling out Vaccines for Detroiters and how Herd Immunity is Vital for Vaccination Efficacy


It was late December when Detroit healthcare workers began receiving their first doses of the Coronavirus vaccine. The next steps, however, as January takes the stage and more vaccines become available for Detroiters, are vitally important to the vaccine’s success. By pursuing our own research and understanding our impact through herd immunity, the resolution to the pandemic may come sooner than later. 

Herd immunity was first recognized in the 1930s as it was found that many children were not getting the measles. Over time it was figured out that this was due to the population’s immunity which combined those who had and survived the disease and those who received vaccinations. This immunity, now known as herd immunity, created a resistance to the disease’s spread. As more individuals receive the Covid-19 vaccine, the herd immunity for the Coronavirus rises.

The Detroit Health Department is working to help the community reach Herd Immunity with a two-phase vaccine distribution plan. These phases span from December 2020 through late spring 2021 and beyond. Phase one begins with healthcare workers, emergency medical service workers, long term care, assisted living, and skilled nursing facility staff and residents. The phase continues with individuals 75 years and older, as well as essential workers, then moves on to those with underlying health conditions. Phase two incorporates the general public. 

No matter where we each fit into these two phases, we may find ourselves excited, nervous, or even doubtful of the vaccine’s

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safety and efficacy. For those of us who tilt more towards the nervous side of things, it may help to understand the coronavirus vaccines that are being distributed. 

Both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccine are mRNA vaccines. According to the CDC, these COVID-19 vaccines instruct our cells to make a harmless piece of the protein found on the surface of the virus, “spike protein,”that causes COVID-19. When the vaccine is injected, and the individual’s immune cells create the protein piece, the immune system recognizes that the protein shouldn’t be there. 

This enacts the immune response, and antibodies are made to fight the virus as they would during a natural infection. When the fabricated protein piece loses its fight, we are protected against future infections of the same virus because of the antibodies that remain in our immune system. The tested COVID-19 vaccines give us the protection to return to a public environment while keeping us from having to experience the symptoms or the ramifications of the virus.  

If information about the COVID-19 vaccines still doesn’t quite resolve your unease, that’s okay, you’re not alone. Pew Research found in November 2020 that only 60% of Americans would definitely or probably get a vaccine for the coronavirus. This left 39% of individuals who said they definitely or probably would not get a vaccine. 

Nearly half of the individuals that said no may change their mind in the future, the study also finds. But 21% of the “no” category strongly stick to their answers. The difference between 39% denial of the vaccine and 21% denial may be life-altering when taking Herd Immunity into account. 

Though the exact percentage of people who need to be immune changes with each disease, the percentage to reach herd immunity is usually quite high. The World Health Organization gives an example of this,

Herd immunity against measles requires about 95% of a population to be vaccinated. The remaining 5% will be protected by the fact that measles will not spread among those who are vaccinated. For polio, the threshold is about 80%.

In June of 2020, Dr. Anthony Fauci stated in an interview that we could settle with 70% herd immunity against the Coronavirus, but that probably wouldn’t promise total protection. During the last few months, Fauci has raised this number to as high as 85%. But the question stands, is this even a possible number to reach with so many still saying they will deny a vaccine? 

It seems the answer to that question is truly up to the individual.

According to Statistica, as of January 5th 2021, 6.27% of Americans (15.4% of Metro Detroiters) have been confirmed or presumptively diagnosed with COVID-19. This number, 20.7 million in terms of individuals, is incredibly high. In terms of percentage, however, it may feel quite low. 

If it does feel low, imagine America reaching 85% Herd Immunity without the help of a vaccine. To experience the devastation the last ten months have brought on a level almost fourteen fold.

It would be devastating for our country. As you continue doing your own research about vaccines and the virus, and look forward to the end of this pandemic, it may be good to keep in mind the part each of us plays in its resolution.

It is without a doubt that as Americans and Detroiters we have been handed the short end of the pandemic stick over and over since early 2020. But as vaccines continue making their way through the Detroit Health Department’s two phases, joining the list of yes’s for the vaccine may be our way of fighting back and pushing forward. As J. Howard Miller said in the famous poster from 1943 to inspire stronger morale in female workers, “We can do it!”

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