‘Close to 85 to 95%’ need to take vaccine to shut down virus, CDC director says

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Center for Control Disease and Prevention’s director said the new vaccine is the light at the end of the tunnel to this deadly pandemic but only if people take it.

Director Dr. Robert Redfield believes the world needs a vaccination rate of more than 85 percent if we want to achieve herd immunity, which his personal opinion and not new guidance from the agency.

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As cases continue to rise, Redfield said the biggest challenge to preventing COVID-19 is now vaccine hesitancy.

“The ability of us to put this pandemic behind us now is no longer a scientific problem it’s going to be strict whether the American public embraces this vaccine,” said Redfield.

During a zoom conversation with the University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s College of Medicine Monday, Dr. Redfield said the first vaccines developed to combat the virus are safe.

“I think this virus is so infectious. I think our herd immunity levels are gonna have to be much higher than that, close to 85 to 95 percent to shut this down but that’s my own personal speculation,” said Redfield.

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With the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine alone, Director Redfield said the U.S. has the capacity to vaccinate 100 million people by March 1, and another 100 million by June 1. He said a second vaccine increases vaccination capacity to 330 million people by next June

Dr. Scott Strome, who led the discussion with director Redfield, said the community has to take a preventative approach to fighting virus and right now that’s the vaccine.

But with less than 50 percent of Americans already taking the flu shot, it’s unclear how many will roll of their sleeves for the COVID-19 vaccine.

“We need to all recognize that in order to protect our population, we have to get vaccinated, be that a common and united mission for our society,” said Dr. Strome, executive dean of the UTHSC College of Medicine.