| The fight against COVID-19 and the efforts to get West Virginians vaccinated has caused medical experts to change their perspectives on herd immunity as a state.|
The state has hit a roadblock with COVID vaccines.
"There is some hope we could get to herd immunity. It's just going to take a lot longer than we anticipated," Dr. Sherri Young with the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 44% of the United States has at least one dose of the COVID vaccine. At least 35.9% of West Virginians have one dose.
Many West Virginians have been slow to embrace the vaccines, with attitudes tilted by a half dozen conspiracy theories and political views of the pandemic shaped by the Trump administration.
Historically, the state has embraced vaccines that eliminated such diseases as polio, diphtheria, typhoid and many others, which took the lives of tens of thousands of West Virginians in the 20th Century.
With high-speed communication, it appears there is little historical recall.
Dr. Ivan Martinez, a professor at West Virginia University, said a collective 70% immunity in some fashion could be enough for herd immunity, but the percentage would need to be higher to combat variants.
Variants are becoming a problem, but so is vaccine hesitancy. When it comes to doses given and people vaccinated, on the CDC map, West Virginia pales in comparison, literally and figuratively, to its surrounding states.
"COVID is so endemic in our society, we're going to be dealing with it pretty much for the rest of our lives, in some form or fashion," Young said.
Martinez said he believes while COVID will likely be around for several years to come.
"It's going to be, I hope, in the next couple of years, it's going to be more like a flu season. It's going to be like a Coronavirus season, in the sense that we're going to get a shot or a booster or something that protects us," Martinez said.
Whether we reach herd immunity or not, Young said it's crucial everyone gets vaccinated before things get worse.
"We need to vaccinate the best we can here, help with vaccination efforts anywhere else we can, and get rid of this pandemic. Otherwise, we will be on a repeat cycle over and over and over again," Young said.