With vaccine demand waning, is herd immunity possible in Tennessee?

At this point, no but health officials remain hopeful
MCC Walk Ins_frame_184.jpeg
Posted at 9:24 PM, May 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-05 23:52:53-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — As the COVID-19 pandemic began last year, we all were quickly introduced to a new phrase: herd immunity -- having enough people immune to a virus to limit its spread.

But as those who want the vaccine have likely already gotten it by now, is herd immunity even possible?

Even as the supply of COVID-19 vaccines now far outpaces the demand for them in Tennessee, doctors are still focused on developing herd immunity.

"I think most estimates would put above 70 percent of immunity to the virus to be important as a way to get to herd immunity," said Dr. David Aronoff with Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

But state data shows vaccination rates are nowhere near 70 percent.

Nashville and Williamson County lead middle Tennessee with full vaccination rates in the 30 percent range, but rural counties like Montgomery, Smith, Cannon and Bedford are hovering in the teens.

"Yes, there are people reluctant to get vaccinated, but because something is challenging because people are reluctant, is by no means a reason not to try," Aronoff said.

And doctors are pointing to a new opportunity: teens likely to become eligible for a vaccine once the FDA clears them, and even younger kids down the road.

"That will, of course, lead to more people being able to be vaccinated and that will increase the chance that we will get to herd immunity," Aronoff said.

Click here for Tennessee county-by-county vaccination rate data.

Click here for CDC vaccination rate data for all U.S. states.