Public health authorities have grown more doubtful that the United States will achieve herd immunity when it comes to the novel coronavirus.

Between 70% and 80% of all Americans would need to be vaccinated to reach herd immunity. This means that a sufficient number of people are shielded from the COVID-19 to keep it from remaining a major health threat to the U.S. population.

The substantially larger segment of the population that’s vaccinated protect everyone else. New cases of infection become less frequent because fewer humans will serve as a host for the virus.

This is the beauty of herd immunity. We know that not everyone will be vaccinated. But if enough people do, this will have a similar effect by significantly slowing the rate of infection.

However, ongoing reluctance to being vaccinated is proving to be a real problem. The coronavirus may well remain a serious threat, and the restrictions imposed to deal with the crisis could continue.

“Early in the pandemic, when vaccines for the coronavirus were still just a glimmer on the horizon, the term ‘herd immunity’ came to signify the endgame: the point when enough Americans would be protected from the virus so we could be rid of the pathogen and reclaim our lives. Now, more than half of adults in the United States have been inoculated with at least one dose of a vaccine,” according to a story published Monday by the New York Times. “But daily vaccination rates are slipping, and there is widespread consensus among scientists and public health experts that the herd immunity threshold is not attainable — at least not in the foreseeable future, and perhaps not ever. Instead, they are coming to the conclusion that rather than making a long-promised exit, the virus will most likely become a manageable threat that will continue to circulate in the United States for years to come, still causing hospitalizations and deaths but in much smaller numbers. How much smaller is uncertain and depends in part on how much of the nation, and the world, becomes vaccinated and how the coronavirus evolves. It is already clear, however, that the virus is changing too quickly, new variants are spreading too easily and vaccination is proceeding too slowly for herd immunity to be within reach anytime soon.”

Several recent polls show that Republicans are a real impediment to achieving herd immunity.

On April 14, Monmouth University released a poll it conducted showing that two in five Republicans said they don’t intend to be vaccinated. A poll by Quinnipiac University, also issued April 14, indicted that 45% of Republicans are turning down the vaccine.

The Kaiser Family Foundation had some slightly better news. According to a Stateline.org article published Sunday in the Watertown Daily Times, the foundation reported that three in 10 Republicans (30%) won’t be vaccinated (this rises to 35% when focusing on rural male Republicans).

These are alarming statistics. The perilous effects of the coronavirus have been well documented.

But many Republicans, particularly those from rural areas of the country, refuse to accept the overwhelming evidence that the vaccines being distributed now are safe and effective. They risk their health and pose a hazard to people around them. The good news is that we haven’t seen evidence that Republicans in the GLOW region are following this trend.

Still, vaccination rates Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming counties continue to trail the statewide rate. In New York, 46.9% of the population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while in the GLOW region only 39.6% of residents have gotten at least one shot. Statewide, 35.7% of the population has completed a vaccine series, compared to 31.4% of residents in the GLOW region, according to state Department of Health data.

GOP leaders nationwide need to mount a campaign to persuade their constituents to be vaccinated. Those resisting this option make up their base of supporters, and it would be helpful for elected officials in the GOP to persuade holdouts to protect themselves. One selling point is that government-imposed restrictions will be lifted once enough people get vaccinated.

Refusing a vaccination isn’t doing the Republican Party or the United States any good.

People left vulnerable to the coronavirus face far greater health risks from COVID-19 than they do from the vaccine. Be a true patriot by rolling up your sleeve and doing your part.

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By the numbers: Vaccination data

A look at vaccination data in the GLOW region as of 11 a.m. May 4:

Genesee County: 23,781 residents have had one dose, or 41.4%; 18,480 residents have completed a vaccine series, or 32.1%.

Livingston County: 26,495 residents have had one dose, or 41.9%; 21,743 residents have completed a vaccine series, or 34.4%.

Orleans County: 14,494 residents have had one dose, or 35.7%; 11,168 residents have completed a vaccine series, or 27.5%.

Wyoming County: 14,908 residents have had one dose, or 37.2%; 11,884 residents have completed a vaccine series, or 29.6%.

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