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Confused about COVID-19 herd immunity in NC? Dr. Fauci says there’s ‘no magic number.’

·3 min read

More than half of North Carolina residents have gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccination. And Gov. Roy Cooper has said that he would further ease mask mandates if the state reaches the two-thirds threshold.

But Dr. Anthony Fauci — the nation’s leading infectious disease doctor — said Friday that there is no “magic number” for reaching herd immunity or easing restrictions. Instead, he pressed all Americans to get vaccinated.

“The threshold for herd immunity is a number that we don’t know what that number is,” Fauci said in an exclusive interview with The News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer. “But there’s one thing that we absolutely are certain of — that the more people that get vaccinated the less and less infection you’re going to have in the community. That’s an incontrovertible fact, an absolutely slam dunk fact.

“And that’s one of the reasons why we want to get as many people vaccinated as we possibly can.”

Fauci and Dr. Cameron Webb, a member of the White House coronavirus response team, reiterated that vaccinations are the key to returning to normal life activities — like traveling to see relatives this summer and returning to the classroom and campus.

“We all know that vaccination dramatically diminishes the risk under any circumstances that you’re at,” Fauci said during a 15-minute question-and-answer session. The questions were submitted by readers in North Carolina and South Carolina.

North Carolina has fallen steadily from its peak of 511,000 vaccination doses administered the week of April 5. During the week of April 19, the last week for which the state has full data, about 298,000 vaccination doses were given out in the state.

Anyone 16 years of age and older is eligible for the vaccine.

“There are 40,000 pharmacies throughout the country in which you just walk in without an appointment and say, ‘I’d like to get vaccinated.’ I think we make people aware (of) the ease with which you can get vaccinated, that a lot of people that you see are hesitant, really just need a little nudge to know that it’s really simple to get vaccinated,” Fauci said.

An April poll from Monmouth University found 21% of Americans said they will likely never get a vaccine and another 12% are waiting to see how it goes. The majority of respondents said they already have received the vaccine (51%) or will do so as soon as allowed (14%).

The 21% figure is down slightly from 24% in January and March, according to the poll.

Webb, an internal medicine doctor in Virginia, said he has had conversations with patients who are reluctant or resistant to getting vaccinated.

“What I’ve found is if you take a posture of listening, just asking people what they’re concerned about and then responding with facts and real data, I think it at least gives people a moment of pause to question some of the misinformation and disinformation that’s out there and then give people time to come around,” Webb said.

“That’s how I’ve approached it with my patients, with my community and even with my family, and it’s had a pretty good success rate.”

For more North Carolina government and politics news, listen to the Under the Dome politics podcast from The News & Observer and the NC Insider. You can find it on Pandora, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, Amazon Music, Megaphone or wherever you get your podcasts.

Under the Dome

With the start of the new year and a new legislative session, The News & Observer has launched a new Under the Dome podcast. We’re unpacking legislation and issues that matter to keep you updated on what’s happening in North Carolina politics twice a week on Monday and Friday mornings. Check us out here and sign up for our weekly Under the Dome newsletter for more political news.

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