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COVID Vaccine Efforts: How Far Away Is the Light at the End of the Tunnel?

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) -- Six million vaccine shots delayed by the winter storm. Claims of possible herd immunity by spring. Worries that health officials haven't been upbeat enough about the vaccine. It was a week of swirling pandemic headlines, some of them seemingly contradictory.

"Winter storm aside, which has caused a huge amount of static in the system, there are a couple things that are going on that are very much on the good side," says UCSF Epidemiologist George Rutherford.

Among the good news is that case numbers are plummeting across most of the country, including California.

"In certain parts of the state you're really starting to see the dynamics of transmission change," Rutherford said. "And I think that's largely because of naturally acquired immunity."

But will that acquired immunity, along with early vaccination efforts, get the entire country to herd immunity as soon as April as some have suggested?

"I think that's highly unlikely," Rutherford says.

The country - and California - still needs to do a lot of vaccinating, an endeavour that is going to require broad vaccine enthusiasm.

"You know, it puts your mind at ease as to when you are going to get it, the nervousness of what's going to happen if I don't get it," said Melvin Coffman after receiving his first dose of the COVID vaccine.

Not everyone feels the same way. Polling shows some 33% of Americans are still skeptical of COVID shots. Some have suggested that health officials were too tepid in their endorsement of the vaccine, and had they been more gung-ho it might have encouraged more enthusiasm amongst the public for getting a shot.

"You know, if you talk to enough people you are going to get a mix of opinions," Rutherford said of the medical community's response to vaccine efficacy questions. "You're going to have some who are very conservative, and some people who are more gung-ho, as you say. When you hear all these opinions people may lose the forest for the trees. The forest is that this is the greatest miracle of modern molecular biology since the discovery of DNA. We all need to get behind this, and I would encourage everyone to get vaccinated as soon as their turn comes up."

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