Dr. Michael Osterholm sounds the alarm on COVID-19 herd immunity

Questioning the impact of COVID-19 variants, access to vaccine supply, and whether more people will opt to get vaccinated, infectious disease expert Dr. Michael Osterholm sounded the alarms regarding herd immunity on Wednesday morning during The Morning News with Dave Lee on WCCO Radio.

"I'm really of the mind that I'm not sure that [herd immunity] is ever going to be achieved," said Dr. Osterholm.

Osterholm, who leads the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said emerging variants like the B.1.1.7. makes herd immunity particularly challenging.

"We may need a very, very high level of protection in our community before we hit that herd immunity where transmission slows down," he said. "One of the challenges we have right now is that we are not vaccinating a lot of the people that we need to be."

According to national data, 41.3 percent of adults 65 and older are fully vaccinated.

69.8 percent of adults 65 and older have received one dose.

"That has only gone up one percent in the last 10 days," Dr. Osterholm said. "That means we have over 22 million potential individuals 65 years of age or older who are not protected at all in terms of vaccination."

Until more vaccines are available and distributed, Dr. Osterholm believes herd immunity isn't a reliable option.

"To get herd immunity we not only have to have vaccines that are effective, but we have to have people willing to take them, or be able to get them," he said. "Right now, that's a real challenge. For the short term, there's no hope of herd immunity in the immediate days ahead."

In Minnesota, 78.9 percent of the state's 65 and older population have received at least COVID-19 vaccine dose.

As of Sunday, March 21 there were 854,827 total individuals who received a completed vaccine series.