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'If everybody gets the vaccine, the pandemic goes away' | What happens if we reach herd immunity - and what happens if we don't

With three different vaccines on the market, experts believe herd immunity is possible. But, what will it take to get there?

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Doctors say it's as simple as this: if everybody gets the vaccine, the pandemic goes away. 

But if we don't reach herd immunity - meaning a vast majority of us either got our shot or were previously infected - then COVID-19 will continue to spread.

"We know what happens under those situations, and what happens is the disease will spread, more people will get it and more people will be at our hospitals and more people will die," said Dr. Bruce Swords, Chief Physician Executive for Cone Health.

He said herd immunity is a must to getting back some sense of "normal." For COVID-19, experts believe that's somewhere around 70 to 80 percent of everyone - adults and children included. 

"When that happens, the numbers of COVID positive people - people who are sick with COVID, will really plummet, and we will have a whole lot less concern about the transmission of COVID once we reach herd immunity."

Dr. Swords says, it will still take some time to get where we need to be, but it's possible we could be in a much better place by summer.

"We now have a very effective tool in a vaccine to fight this pandemic, and that means it is in our control as a community to manage the pandemic," he said, "If everybody gets the vaccine, the pandemic goes away. Between now and when everybody gets the vaccine, for heaven's sake, keep wearing the mask and stay socially distant."