Herd immunity: Expert explains how it could contribute to slowing spread of coronavirus

IRVINE, Calif. (KABC) -- How will the coronavirus pandemic end? We are learning more about several possible paths.

One is a vaccine in the works. Another is the concept of herd immunity.

Andrew Noymer, a public heath professor at University of California, Irvine, explained how herd immunity works.

Coronavirus is highly contagious, infecting people easily and spreading quickly among families, social settings and busy workplaces.

But as more people are infected and recover they each develop a level of immunity. Over time, there will be fewer people who are still vulnerable to infection and available to help coronavirus spread.

"Herd immunity is the concept that once a certain proportion of the whole population is immune, the virus has a really hard time bouncing from person to person. And so, what we want to get to eventually is a situation where most people are immune and then the epidemic will die out," Noymer said.

Noymer says as humans continue to become infected - and as most of them recover - the herd will be more protected over time.

And when an effective vaccine is eventually developed and many millions or billions more are inoculated, coronavirus could eventually become a chapter in our history books, like the Spanish flu pandemic more than 100 years ago.

Noymer also points out we don't know just how good our coronavirus immunity will be or how long it may last so there are a lot of questions yet to be answered.
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