Health experts say there may be a way for a large population of people to become immune to viruses such as COVID-19.
Herd immunity is when enough people become immune to a disease that makes its spread unlikely.
According to John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, if 80 percent of a population is immune to a virus, four out of every five people who encounter someone contagious with said virus won't get sick.
"In this way, the spread of infectious diseases is kept under control. Depending how contagious an infection is, usually 50 percent to 90 percent of a population needs immunity to achieve herd immunity," JHSPH stated.
Dr. Jennifer Rudd, veterinarian, researcher, and boarded microbiologist at the Oklahoma State University College of Veterinary Medicine, said 80 percent of the population would need immunity for COVID-19 to go from a pandemic level to a typical seasonal virus.
"The race to herd immunity is more of a marathon than a sprint. I sincerely hope the worst is behind us," said Rudd. "As the numbers of vaccinated people rise and winter changes to spring and then summer, we should observe our COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to drop steadily."
Rudd said natural infections and vaccines create natural immunity and a person's cells are protecting themselves from future disease.
"The vaccines prevent death. They prevent hospitalizations, overwhelmed hospitals and overworked health care workers," said Rudd. "They allow breathing room to get our kids back in school, our businesses fully opened and our most vulnerable to once again feel some community."
According to Rudd, vaccination is the safest and most ethical way to achieve herd immunity.
"As these numbers drop, we will be able to better contact trace and control new pockets of outbreaks. New variants of the virus may create some setbacks. If we can stay true to our task and continue following masking and distancing guidelines, restricting large gatherings and encouraging vaccination, we can put the worst of this pandemic behind us and instead focus on what we want our end goal to be," said Rudd.
Dr. John Fell says it's likely that COVID-19 will be here henceforth and the goal is to create herd immunity and save millions of lives.
"It should go from being a pandemic to endemic, like the common cold," said Fell. "We get herd immunity from being exposed or through immunity optimally."
As of Thursday, Feb. 18, the Oklahoma State Department of Health has administered 447,323 vaccines whereas Cherokee Nation is nearing 20,000 administered vaccines.