COVID herd immunity proves to be a challenge locally

Updated: May. 4, 2021 at 5:06 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Health officials say herd immunity against COVID-19 will be achieved once 75 to 80 percent of the population is vaccinated.

However, local leaders worry that won’t happen in the north country. To try to get closer, these next few weeks are what officials call “critical.”

“We’re going to have to energize people who are reluctant, hesitant, or just have apathy towards the whole process,” said Scott Gray, chairman of the Jefferson County Board of Legislators.

Here’s why it’s considered a challenge. The latest numbers show nearly 44 percent of people in Jefferson County are fully vaccinated. That’s just more than half of reaching herd immunity and it’s why infection rates are creeping up.

“We’re having more positive cases out of the pool that’s being tested everyday. We don’t want that. We want to go in the other direction,” said Jefferson County Public Health Planner Steve Jennings.

Jennings says most of the new cases are in people ages 50 years old or younger and transmissions are happening where people work.

St. Lawrence County is seeing the same challenge, with 47 percent of residents fully vaccinated.

“On a daily basis, we’re moving maybe .2 percent a day with people getting vaccinated,” said Jolene Munger, St. Lawrence County’s interim public health director.

The county just launched a campaign, called “I Got My COVID-19 Vaccine Because...,” hoping to influence others to get theirs.

But in the end, Gray says if you’re sick of COVID, get the shot.

“Everybody wants their summer back and wants it uninhibited by any restrictions. This is the path forward,” he said.

Lewis County reports just under 40 percent of its population is fully vaccinated against COVID.

To help reach more people, Jefferson County is switching to pop-up clinics, going into more rural communities with hopes people will roll up their sleeve and get a shot and reach herd immunity.

You can find the schedule to Jefferson County’s pop-up clinics on Jefferson County Public Health’s website.

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