“I don’t know what herd immunity is,” Abbott admitted on Fox News on Sunday, but he said Texas “looks like it could be very close to herd immunity” based on the number of people vaccinated and those who have antibodies from getting COVID-19.
Infectious diseases expert Michael Osterholm told the New York Times that Abbott is wrong.
“There is no way on God’s green earth that Texas is anywhere even close to herd immunity,” Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told the Times.
He pointed to the Upper Midwest as a cautionary tale.
“Look no further than Michigan and Minnesota, which have much higher rates of vaccination than Texas,” Osterholm said. “And we’re already seeing widespread transmission.”
Osterholm warned that Texas could see rising infection rates in a matter of weeks as fast-moving variants take hold.
“These variants are game changers,” he said.
Most experts believe herd immunity is possible when 70% to 90% of the population is immune to the virus, either from vaccination or from COVID-19 recovery, The Washington Posted noted. In Texas, however, that number is closer to 50%, including 19% who are fully vaccinated.
On CNN, cardiologist Jonathan Reiner also disputed Abbott’s estimate.
“I know what herd immunity looks like,” Reiner said, estimating a 70% to 80% threshold. “We’re not close to that yet ... We’re not close to that in Texas, and we’re actually not close to that in the United States yet.”
Reiner pointed out that last 20% to 30% will be the hardest, due to people who are hesitant to get vaccinated, including a large number in the military.
“If we don’t vaccinate that last 30% or so, we’re still going to have to live with this virus for a very long time,” Reiner said.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.