Former US Surgeon General Jerome Adams talks Indianapolis herd immunity, mask shaming

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams is back in central Indiana practicing medicine. 

Adams talked about vaccination goals, herd immunity and mask shaming on Tuesday with News 8’s Alexis Rogers. 

The Indianapolis City-County Council on Monday night voted to lift the county mask mandate for people who are fully vaccinated and expanded capacity at bars and some other facilities

“Dr. Virginia Caine, the Marion County health director, is a good friend of mine. And she has really worked hard to try to help people understand the science and to try to give them reasonable goals to move towards. And the vaccination rates, they’ve been going up, they’re slowing down a little bit but still going up; hospitalizations are down, cases are down, positivity rates are down, and those are all good things. And so, now we’re at a point where we have to say, ‘Hey do we trust one another to do the right thing?’ And the right thing is to (A) get vaccinated and (B) if you’re not vaccinated, to continue to wear your mask,” Adams said. 

Adams also addressed whether July 4 was a reasonable goal for Marion County to fully reopen. He said a 40% vaccination average rate in Marion County — and more broadly within the state — doesn’t tell the whole story. 

“The African American and Hispanic vaccination rates are much lower than that. We’re still pretty far away from that goal. It doesn’t mean that we can’t get there. We just need to double down on working with churches, working with work sites, getting vaccinations in the hands of the primary-care physicians who people trust,” Adams said.

“The way we get back to normal is through vaccinations, is through trusting each other to do the right thing,” Adams said.

Caine has said Marion County needs to have 50% of residents vaccinated to fully reopen. 

“She laid out those goals, she laid the pathway to get to those goals: Get vaccinated. Now it’s on us. I’ve done so. I’ve gotten both of my boys, who are 15 and 16 years old, vaccinated.”

Adams said he hoped people who had questions about getting vaccinated will ask their doctors those questions.

“In most cases, when I talk to people, they have reasonable questions. But if you actually share with them the facts in a compassionate way, then usually they make the decision to do what’s best for their health, and in most cases, that’s getting vaccinated,” Adams said.

Adams also discussed the concept of herd immunity: that if enough people have been vaccinated, the virus can’t transmit from person to person even if one person has it. 

“We have to remember a few things: It’s the number of people vaccinated plus the number of people who have had a prior infection. That all adds up,” Adams said.

And that protection is all about the size of the herd: whether you’re at home with family that’s mostly vaccinated versus at a grocery store or a stadium, relying on a larger crowd of people, Adams said.

Adams talked about people shaming others for continuing to wear masks.

“We shouldn’t shame anyone for wearing a mask because you don’t know what’s going on in a person’s life. Like my wife dealing with a cancer diagnosis. You don’t know if they’re like my nephew and they’re someone who’s too young to get vaccinated but has asthma. Again, the best thing we can do is get vaccinated, but remember not everyone can get vaccinated and not everyone is going to make the choice to get vaccinated,” Adams said.


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