Local doctor says country could reach herd immunity by summer, some groups sooner

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – It’s been nearly a year since the first coronavirus case was confirmed in Rhode Island. As case numbers, hospitalizations, and deaths drop and vaccinations continue to rise, doctors say there is hope on the horizon.

One local doctor says he believes the country could reach ‘herd immunity’ by the end of the summer.

“The U.S. has purchased more, we now have Johnson & Johnson coming on board, so we’ll have a third vaccine, so I really do think by the end of the summer,” Dr. Michael Koster said.

Dr. Michael Koster is an Infectious Diseases expert and Hospital Epidemiologist with Rhode Island Hospital and Hasbro Children’s Hospital.

He says there is no magic number, but he believes we’ll reach herd immunity once about 60% of the country is vaccinated. However, he says certain groups and areas can get there much sooner.

“If you just look at the nursing home populations where you have pretty good compliance with vaccination uptake, we already see herd immunity there,” Dr. Koster said.

So, when things return back to normal and will they ever? Dr. Koster says masks may stay a while, especially in public places, but small gatherings with vaccinated people can be more relaxed.

“In small groups of people who are vaccinated at that point, I think there’s an opportunity to have dinner together, things like that,” Dr. Koster said. “However, if you’re vaccinated, the whole world isn’t vaccinated so when you go to the grocery store or do other things indoors you still need to use personal protective equipment and stay a distance.”

Once the day comes where COVID is behind us, he says we’ll still need to keep an eye out on mutant stains and get booster shots.

“Nothing unites the human spirit more than a common enemy. We all hate COVID,” Dr. Koster said. “If you’re looking for silver linings in this, it’s certainly communities that have bonded together to help each other, folks struggling in businesses that have banded together. The benefit of communities is even stronger right now.”

Dr. Koster also says more research needs to be done on children and vaccines. Currently, vaccines have only been tested on people 16 and older, so eventually, he says kids will need to get shots, too.

Categories: Coronavirus, News, Providence, Rhode Island