That depends on how fast a new strain of the virus spreads, said Marm Kilpatrick, a UC Santa Cruz professor who studies infectious diseases. Preliminary data shows that the new strain is about 50% more transmissible than previous strains, Kilpatrick said.
“And if that’s the case, then you’ll actually have to increase the fraction of people that are vaccinated even higher, to see substantial reductions in transmission,” Kilpatrick said. “So as I’m looking at things, I think we can see a huge decrease in death just by getting the nursing home residents vaccinated, and then [the people older than 75], and another big decrease by getting the 65-and-overs. And at that point, we’ll have covered most people that are dying. We’ll still have a bunch of people that will get sick and sometimes hospitalized. And then we can kind of chip away at that, as we get both older people and some of the people that are frontline workers that are getting exposed the most.
“But then, we’re not going to get down to no masks, regular parties and large gatherings of people until a really high fraction of the population gets either vaccinated or infected, or both. And with the new strain, that number is probably going to be somewhere in the, like 80% to 90% range. So that’s a little bit of uncertainty, if you go back to the original strain that we have now. And if the new strain ends up being not as infectious as it looks like so far, then that number could have been as low as between 60% and 70%. But now, if the data turned out to be correct, then it’ll be closer to 80% to 90%,” Kilpatrick said.
As of Jan. 5, among hospital workers in Santa Cruz County, 70% of those offered the vaccine have taken it. Thirty percent have said no or said they want to wait before they take it, said Santa Cruz County Deputy Health Officer Dr. David Ghilarducci.
“I think we’re going to be living with this virus for the rest of our lives. And just like we have to live with polio and measles and mumps, these are viruses that are now part of our human existence. And the best way — the only way, I should say — to control this is to have broad acceptance of vaccination programs to do this,” Ghilarducci said. “We’ve essentially eradicated polio from this country — it does exist in other countries — but the only reason we’ve been able to do that is because we have good polio vaccine acceptance rates. So the same will be true for COVID going forward. And, you know, at some point, probably it’ll be required for children to get this before they go to school, just like other vaccines, but it also will be heavily recommended for people in high risk groups and so forth.
“Really, I think people need to understand this, is that this vaccine is really our only path out of this. And people have, you know, concerns, I certainly understand that. And I think that’s normal and natural. But the benefit of these vaccines in general far outweigh any small risks. And I really encourage people to get real information, to get information from reputable sources and not from social media, regarding this vaccine and other aspects of COVID,” Ghilarducci said.