Dr. Anthony Fauci and other national health leaders have said that African Americans need to take the COVID-19 vaccine to protect their health. What Fauci and others have not made clear is that African Americans need to take the vaccine, so that the nation as a whole will get to herd immunity.
The concept of herd immunity also referred to as community immunity, is fairly simple. When a significant proportion of the population, or the herd, becomes immune from the virus, the entire population will have some acceptable degree of protection.
Immunity can occur through natural immunity from personal infection and recovery, or through vaccination. Once a population reaches herd immunity, the likelihood of person-to-person spread becomes very low.
The big lie is one of omission. Yes, it is true that African Americans will benefit from the COVID vaccine, but the full truth is that the country needs African Americans and other population subgroups with lower reported COVID-19 vaccine acceptability rates to take the vaccine. It is being said that without increased vaccine acceptability, there is little to no chance of communitywide protection.
Debra Furr-Holden, Associate Dean for Public Health Integration, Michigan State University
is an epidemiologist and health equity scholar who has been conducting research in the African American community for 20 years. Much of her work focuses on strategies to increase community engagement in research and focus on opportunities to improve COVID vaccine acceptance in the African American community.
Do the (coronavirus) math
Roughly 70% of people in the U.S. need to take the vaccine for the population to reach herd immunity. Whites make up about 60% of the U.S. population. So, if every white person got the vaccine, the U.S. would still fall short of herd immunity. A recent study suggested that 68% of white people would be willing to get the COVID-19 vaccine. If these estimates hold up, that would get us to 42%.
African Americans make up more than 13% of the American population. But if up to 60% of African Americans refuse to take the vaccine, as a recent study suggests, it will be difficult to reach that 70% threshold that is likely needed to reach herd immunity.