Johns Hopkins physician says U.S. could reach COVID herd immunity by April; officials urge continued caution


NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Healthcare leaders are looking to the goal of something called herd immunity before we can all get back to normal. That means that the majority of the population is vaccinated or has antibodies to COVID-19.

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Now one Johns Hopkins physician, Dr. Marty Makary, says in a Wall Street Journal opinion/commentary that we may be as close as April for herd immunity with COVID-19 cases plummeting.

Dr. Makary wrote that cases of COVID-19 are down 77% in the past six weeks in the U.S. It isn’t just the vaccine. Cases of people with natural immunity from having had the virus appear to be far more widespread than originally thought.

“We think that maybe about one hundred thousand people in the United States may have unknowingly had covid and have additional layers of immunity,” says Dr. Manisha Juthani, Yale Medicine infectious disease specialist.

She says it is difficult to know exact numbers saying that will take months and years of study to learn.

“So for now we have to continue to do the things that work while we let things play out over this next month which I think will be very telling in terms of what direction we’re headed in,” says Dr. Juthani.

She says antibodies are produced when someone is exposed to the virus or vaccinated against it. There is also something called T-cells, which Dr. Juthani says are sleeping cells.

Dr. Makary’s article also says that the medical community may be underappreciating the prevalence of immunity from activated T-cells. It also points out that survivors of the 1918 Spanish flu outbreak were found in 2008, 90 years later, to have memory cells still able to produce neutralizing antibodies.

“Those T-cells have memory. They have memory that they’ve seen the virus before and those T-cells become more active,” says Dr. Juthani.

She says they allow the body to create an immune response. However, it is hard to test for T-cells and get immunity levels.

“T-cells can provide another layer of protection among a group that is not vaccinated yet.”

Monday, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former Food and Drug Administration commissioner, said he does not “necessarily agree” with some of the numbers Makary used to in his argument but said he thinks the sentiment is right.

So moving forward, more distancing, masking, and vaccinations.

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