KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Doctors said herd immunity is the golden ticket to fully going back to pre-pandemic days, but people have to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to accomplish that.
"If you are thinking, 'Oh I had COVID-19,' and you say 'I don't need to be vaccinated': the reality is you are not protected against the variants, which the vaccines do work with and we don't think your immunity will last as long as it does with vaccination," said Dr. Steven Stites, chief medical officer at the University of Kansas Health System.
Right now, many doctors believe the Kansas City area is unlikely to reach herd immunity.
The Missouri COVID-19 vaccine dashboard shows 29% of the state is fully vaccinated, while the state of Kansas sits at 29.6%.
Experts said the populations need to be at 70% to reach herd immunity. One way to do that could be vaccinating more groups of people, specifically children.
"Getting children vaccinated will increase the percentage of people overall vaccinated and thus help to decrease the ability for the virus to be transmitted," said Dr. Angela Myers, infectious diseases division director at Children's Mercy Hospital.
Myers said children make up 20 percent of the population. It's expected the FDA could give the green light for kids ages 12 through 15 to get the Pfizer vaccine.
"Vaccinating children can do a lot of great things for us. It allows more freedoms in terms of not wearing masks and being out and about more," Myers said.
Another way the nation is working to get people vaccinated is incentives.
"We are working with major sports leagues to launch special promotions for their fans. Things like ticket giveaways, in-stadium vaccination programs, discounts on merchandise and other creative ways to make it easier and more fun to get vaccinated," President Joe Biden said Tuesday.
While the golden ticket, herd immunity, may be in sight, doctors say vaccination efforts need to continue.
"We do need a vast majority, and so we have to really keep plugging along and getting people immunized," Myers said.