Trust Index: Could Central Florida reach herd immunity by fall?

Experts disagree on when herd immunity will happen

ORLANDO, Fla. – One of Central Florida’s largest venues is planning to re-open at full capacity in fall, but will the state or Central Florida have reached herd immunity with COVID-19 by then?

Herd immunity is defined as when enough people have either had the disease or been vaccinated against it, reducing the chance of the virus spreading.

When Billie Eilish hit the stage of Orlando’s Amway Center in March of 2020 it was the last time the 18,000-seat venue was at full capacity, but it could happen again this fall.

Craig Borkon is the deputy chief venues officer for Orlando and says the Amway Center has a full list of concerts and events scheduled starting in August.

“We could only make decisions based on what we know now, and plan for the future based on what we think the future is going to hold,” Borkon said.

There are plenty of big names in the line-up: Enrique Iglesias and Ricky Martin, Marc Anthony and Kane brown to name a few.

With more and more people getting vaccinated against COVID-19, city officials are looking forward.

“We’re working with all of the promotors and all of the event coordinators to make sure that when we have these events they’re safe and secure and people can come to the events without worrying about their health.”

But could fall be too soon?

Dr. Ali Mokdad is an epidemiologist with the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. His COVID-19 models have been used by the White House.

He believes neither the U.S., Florida or Central Florida will reach herd immunity by fall.

“No, we’re not. For sure we’re not. With the new variants we are not,” Mokdad said. “Simply because the numbers don’t add up, we’re not gonna see a herd immunity before Winter. We can see it sometime next year, early next year.”

Here’s why--experts guesstimate that to reach herd immunity 75-85% of the population would have to be vaccinated or have had the virus.

So far in Florida, about 7.5 million people have had at least one dose of a vaccine which is less than 35% of the population.

In Orange County, about 26.8% have been vaccinated, according to information from the Florida Department of Health in Orange County.

Mokdad also points to a survey where only 60-69% of Floridians said they are open to getting the vaccine.

There is currently no approved vaccine for 12 to 15-year-old’s, according to Mokdad. Until there is, he believes Florida will not reach herd immunity.

An epidemiologist at AdventHealth, Dr. Vincent Hsu, disagreed.

Hsu believes Florida could hit herd immunity by next fall, based on the current rate of vaccinations.

Orlando leaders will monitor the public health climate throughout the summer and will adjust the concert schedule as needed, if it’s not safe for the public to attend, according to Borkon.

Because of the differing opinions in the medical community, we give herd immunity by fall, “Be careful” on the Trust Index.

Be Careful

After reviewing this topic, we've found some issues - Be Careful.

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About the Authors:

Emmy Award-winning reporter Louis Bolden joined the News 6 team in September of 2001 and hasn't gotten a moment's rest since. Louis has been a General Assignment Reporter for News 6 and Weekend Morning Anchor. He joined the Special Projects/Investigative Unit in 2014.

Emmy-nominated journalist Kristin Cason joined the News 6 team in June 2016.