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Can Oklahoma actually reach herd immunity? Oklahoma physicians think so

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Even though Oklahoma communities are now taking a more relaxed stance against COVID-19, physicians in the state remain hopeful that we are able to achieve herd immunity.

“Theoretically, we could get herd immunity with our vaccines by the summer. It is possible,” said Dr. Mary Clarke, president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association.

However, Dr. Clarke said there are still some obstacles in the way.

“One is vaccine hesitancy, still. We still have some patients who are hesitant,” said Dr. Clarke. “We have a small minority of patients who will ultimately refuse, and we also have the issue with patients who want the vaccine but don’t have the access.”

Some of those who still do not have access are teens and pre-teens.

“For all of us who have children, we may have multiple kids we can add to the vaccine more quickly once the 12-and-unders are available to get it and 16-and-unders,” said David Kendrick, M.D., Founder and CEO of MyHealth Access Network and the Department Chair of Medical Informatics at OU School of Community Medicine. “So I think, for me, that means I’m fairly optimistic this summer that we’ll get another tranche in as soon as those studies are done.”

But what about natural immunity, such as recovering from the virus, itself? Dr. Clarke said it may not be enough to get herd immunity.

“It looks like that certain percentage of people are going to lose that immunity and they’re no longer going to be able to be in that calculation,” said Dr. Clarke. “So as it stands, the only way we’re going to have really good, long-term herd immunity is with a vaccine.”

So far, Dr. Clarke said the data shows vaccine immunity lasts about 12 months, but it is still being studied. For that reason, experts stress the importance of staying diligent in the fight against COVID-19.

“The game ain’t over yet’s the problem,” said Stan Schwartz M.D., FACP, FISDA, Chief Executive Officer at WellOK, The Northeastern Oklahoma Business Coalition on Health and Chief Medical Officer at ZERO.health. “We’re in the fourth down, we’re in the red zone and if we take our defense off the team, you know what’s going to happen.”

Physicians also told News 4 that the Pfizer vaccine is expected to be available soon for those between 12 and 15 years old. They said it will help close the gap to herd immunity.

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