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Vaccine or herd immunity key to resuming ‘normal’ after pandemic, says doctor

What will it take to reopen society? When will life go back to ‘normal’?

While it may be a long time before that happens, a doctor at the University of Rochester Medical Center weighed in on Wednesday, with what many medical professionals consider to be the consensus view.

It will take herd immunity, which happens when 60 percent of the population is exposed to a disease Dr. Michael Apostolakos told He’s the chief medical officer at URMC.

If not herd immunity, it will take a vaccine.

“Right now the population is being exposed, but at a very slow rate and that’s what social distancing does. It doesn’t get rid of the disease but it slows down the transmission and if people are going to get severely ill from it only a few will get severely ill at a time,” explained Dr. Apostolakos.

While he contends that 5-10 percent of the population has been exposed, more research is being done on this topic to identify if more could have potentially been exposed over a longer period of time.

The United States’ delayed response to COVID-19, along with the fact that most medical professionals agree that the virus was here long before the first confirmed case suggests that more could have been exposed.

“Herd immunity occurs when there is enough of this spread over time to infect enough people. So if you didn’t do social distancing, a lot of people will get infected very quickly but it would overrun the healthcare system and people would die unnecessarily,” Apostolakos added in his conversation with

A vaccine is said to be 12-18 months away.