5 New England States Have Best Vaccination Rates in US, But Herd Immunity Doesn't Look Promising

Vaccination rates are up across the country, especially here in New England, but there's growing agreement that reaching herd immunity doesn't look too promising.

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Vaccination rates are up across the country, especially here in New England where five states have the best rates in the United States.

New Hampshire leads the nation with 60.7 percent of residents having received at least one dose of either Pfizer or Moderna's vaccine, or a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Granite State is followed by Massachusetts (57.3 percent), Vermont (56.6), Connecticut (55.6), and Maine (55.2). And while Hawaii is next on the list (53.7), Rhode Island is not far behind (53.3).

But even with more people getting vaccinated, there's growing agreement that getting rid of COVID-19 altogether might be impossible.

"The idea that we’re going to get so many people vaccinated that we’re going to make this virus disappear I think that has pretty much gone out the window,” said Dr. Robert Klugmam with UMass Memorial Medical Center.

Herd Immunity -- immunizing enough people to stop the virus from spreading -- would solve a lot of problems. But right now, the concept doesn’t look too promising.

"It’s a constant battle of how many more people can we vaccinate to get them protected,” said Dr. George Abraham of Saint Vincent Hospital.

While vaccination rates are high in New England, there are dramatically lower numbers in other parts of the country and world, and the reality is that the small northeast region is not an island.

"Even in the northeast where we're at 40% or so of the population fully vaccinated, we're way short of what we would need to achieve herd immunity," Klugmam said.

”As long as we have travel in and out of the country, as long as we have travel within the country to to all states of a country where there’s not uniform rates of vaccination, our herd will always be a dynamic number,” Abraham said.

While vaccinations have provided a path out of the pandemic, the head of the governor’s vaccination advisory task force agrees with the growing consensus that eliminating COVID-19 entirely might not be possible.

Even so, Dr. Paul Biddinger says things can return to normal.

”It’s about managing the consequences so that even if there are low levels of COVID, all of those who are vulnerable and most of us in general are protected,” he said.

Klugmam said, ”Unfortunately, people will still get sick and some people will die. That’s true of the flu as well for that matter.”

To reach herd immunity, most seem to think 70 to 80% of the population would need to be vaccinated -- a process that would take at least 2 to 3 years.

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