Herd Immunity Is The Solution For Covid-19. But When?

The end of the pandemic’s acute phase, or something genuinely close to it, will arrive when so-called herd immunity is reached. This will mark a meaningful turning point for public health and the economy, which are inextricably linked in the age of Covid-19. That leaves the critical question: When will herd immunity arrive?

Estimating the precise date is tricky and probably impossible, but the significance of reaching this point is clear. As WebMD advises, “herd immunity, or community immunity, is when a large part of the population of an area is immune to a specific disease. If enough people are resistant to the cause of a disease, such as a virus or bacteria, it has nowhere to go.” The bottom line: “Herd immunity protects at-risk populations.”

What percentage of the population needs to acquire resistance to Covid-19, either with vaccines or naturally with the development of antibodies? Early estimates were 60% to 70%, but revised projections are higher, some rising to nearly 90%.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in late-December observed that “when polls said only about half of all Americans would take a vaccine, I was saying herd immunity would take 70 to 75 percent. Then, when newer surveys said 60 percent or more would take it, I thought, ‘I can nudge this up a bit,’ so I went to 80, 85.” He added that “we need to have some humility here. We really don’t know what the real number is. I think the real range is somewhere between 70 to 90 percent. But, I’m not going to say 90 percent.”

For the US, current projections generally point to some point in the second half of 2021 for herd immunity, but this is subject to change, based on several variables. Let’s dig into this a bit deeper for managing expectations. Indeed, the arrival of herd immunity in the early part of the second half vs. the latter part of this year isn’t a trivial difference in terms of health and economic consequences.

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