Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham say herd immunity could be just around the corner.
UAB researchers hope we’ll see even fewer patients as Alabama approaches herd immunity for coronavirus in late spring or early summer.
"The more people have immunity, the less the virus will spread, the safer it will be for us to interact with one another again," said Dr. Suzanne Judd, University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Judd explained how close we are to herd immunity depends on a few factors.
"It depends on the rate of vaccination. It depends on how many people have antibodies, or immunity that didn't have a positive test, and it depends on whether or not the virus mutates in the next few months," said Judd.
Once herd immunity is reached through vaccination or infection, it'll make virus spread less likely, potentially keeping coronavirus patient numbers low in hospitals like Marshall Medical Centers.
"It sure makes it a lot easier on the staff if we can keep our numbers low," said Kathy Woodruff, Chief Nursing Officer at Marshall Medical.
In Alabama, Judd estimates that 1.5 million people could already have antibodies, even without testing positive.
"True herd immunity would allow us to get back together again. It would mean that we could have concerts, have sporting events, all the things that we've been pushing back and distancing and not allowing large groups to gather," said Judd.
She added that vaccinations will help keep people out of hospitals because they'll have less severe cases of coronavirus if they do still get infected.
Dr. Judd explained that even when herd immunity might be reached, they'll continue to keep a close eye on the number of cases per week. She said that as long as there are only 5 or 10 cases per 100,000 people in the state, with decent testing, it could be safe to get people back together.