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What Happens if Some Iowa Counties Fail to Reach Herd Immunity?

Coronavirus

DES MOINES, Iowa — Dr. Yogesh Shah, the chief medical officer at Broadlawns Medical Center, believes Iowa’s community immunity, or herd immunity, has a sweet spot between 60% and 70%. “The reason there is a range is because of all the variants,” said Shah.

The CDC has yet to set a number. Shah said, “Once they come up with it, it would be hard to deny or justify.”

As of Tuesday, there have been 675,229 Iowans fully vaccinated, which is around 21% of Iowa’s population. “Ultimately, until that number is reached, the community herd threshold is reached, we will have to continue to do what we have been doing for the last year,” said Shah.

There’s a chance Iowa reaches herd immunity but a neighboring state does not. “If one state has not reached the threshold and Iowa does 70%, can we not travel there and can we not let people from that state enter? That’s a big question,” Shah said. He added, “What about from city to city, from Des Moines to Iowa City or Mason City, and what about county to county? Those are a lot of good questions.”

Technically, Shah says reaching herd immunity should be easier than other deadly diseases. “To prevent measles’ contagion, we need 95% immunity. For polio, it goes down to 80% to 82%,” said Shah.

Health professionals like Ann Cochran, the health navigator at the Dallas County Health Department, believe it is the responsibility of all Iowans to get vaccinated. “There is no big wall between the two counties. Many people who are residents of Dallas County regularly go into Des Moines,” said Cochran.

The idea of COVID-19 vaccination passports has drawn criticism, but Shah says it’s not new. “I received the yellow fever vaccine years ago to travel to Africa and I still have a yellow fever card.”

While tracking who has been vaccinated by county may seem like a tall task, Shah says participants should have entered their zip code to register for vaccinations. He hopes the state will publicly track those results by zip code soon. “Hopefully we are tracking by county zip code at least and ultimately we will have zip codes where we can say this zip code is 70% and this zip code has not reached that number,” Shah said.

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