Since the beginning of the pandemic, scientists have questioned when America would enter a phase known as herd immunity. More recently, as vaccine rollout continues, many believe this signifies the end of the pandemic that Americans have hoped for. However, according to recent studies, herd immunity may never happen.
At the start, experts believed that in order to reach the desired herd immunity, about 60% to 70% of the population needed to attain COVID-19 immunity, either from antibodies or the vaccination itself. Yet high rates of hesitancy regarding getting the vaccine and the continued development of variants has caused these experts to declare COVID-19 a longer-term threat. Now, to reach herd immunity, 80% to 90% of the total U.S. population must be vaccinated.
Although healthcare experts and officials have formed a common conclusion that the pandemic will not have a magical ending as once anticipated, they have openly said the virus will no longer pose as large a threat. The experts predict the virus will continue to circulate, but at a much slower pace and without the large death toll and hospitalization rates that initially occurred.
Despite more than half of adults living in the United States having received at least the first dose of a vaccine, vaccination rates are diminishing as time goes on, contributing to the uncertainty about community immunity. The New York Times reported daily vaccination rates of each age group has continued to decline. Especially with delayed approval for children under the age of 12, the vaccine rollout has progressed at a much slower rate than expected.
Additionally, with news that herd immunity was likely unattainable, many have adopted the “why bother” mentality about getting the vaccine, further adding to the high level of vaccine skeptics. This mentality is counterproductive and could potentially make group immunity even less realistic, according to experts such as Dr. Anthony Fauci. In order to keep the virus manageable, vaccinations remain key.
The full details and effects of the virus continues to remain unclear. Nevertheless, the most dependent factor remains vaccinations. Experts currently compare COVID-19 to other viral infections like influenza in terms of hospitality and fatality levels.