Herd immunity will happen quickly with widely-available COVID-19 vaccine, medical expert says

Even though COVID-19 cases are surging across the country, we are still very far from achieving herd immunity from the virus. Local medical experts say once a vaccine is released, we should get there relatively quickly, but we need to remain vigilant.

So far, no country has achieved herd immunity from the coronavirus. That’s when enough of the population is protected from the virus.

“There’s two ways of getting there, one is to get the infection naturally and the other is to get the vaccine,” explained emerging and infectious disease expert, Dr. Thomas Unnasch.

He says ideally we can keep positive cases down until most folks can be vaccinated. In that scenario, the transmission of COVID-19 will start to slow since more people will have immunity.

“Herd immunity, once we have the vaccine and it’s widely available, will be generated very quickly, I think, because people will line up and get the vaccinations,” Unnasch said.

Health experts say what we want to avoid is continuing to let the infection spread through the community. Achieving protection from COVID-19 that way comes at a tremendous cost.

If the rate of infection in Florida continues the way it is, some models predict we will reach a peak in mid-January and hit herd immunity. However, cases will be about 18-times greater than they are now, and medical experts say that would completely overwhelm the healthcare system.

COVID UPDATES: Download the free FOX 13 News app for ongoing coronavirus coverage and live updates

“The trouble with getting the infection naturally is there’s going be a lot of people who are going to get really sick, a lot of people that are going to die as a result of that,” said Unnasch.

It will likely be months before most of us can be immunized for coronavirus, so we need to stay vigilant, and continue taking steps to stop the spread.

“People still need to be careful now, they still need to do the social distancing and work with the masks,” Unnasch said. “We just all need to hunker down and try and slog through this last half mile to get to the point where we all can get vaccinated and we can just put this into a bad memory and move on with our lives.”

If you feel sick:

The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to covid-19@flhealth.gov. Email responses will be sent during call center hours.

LINK: Florida's COVID-19 website

CORONAVIRUS IN FLORIDA: What you need to know

AROUND THE WORLD: CoronavirusNOW.com

Map of known COVID-19 cases:

MOBILE APP USERS: Click here for map