Health Experts Warn U.S. Not Likely to Hit Herd Immunity Any Time Soon

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Trace William Cowen
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Image via Getty/Carl Court

Thanks in part to people who are declining to do something as simple as get vaccinated, some experts are now warning that achieving herd immunity in the U.S. is not a likely scenario in the near future.

In a New York Times report from Apoorva Mandavilli, published Monday, the current best case scenario in the eyes of a variety of public health experts is that COVID-19 can become a “manageable threat” as it continues its U.S. circulation for several years. The intensity of that threat, of course, is heavily reliant on ensuring better vaccination numbers and closely monitoring variants.

Notably quoted in the Times piece is Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical advisor who’s been a frequent voice of caution and skepticism-battling amid the pandemic era. As Fauci explained, an initial emphasis on herd immunity in public safety messaging was rethought after noticing it was causing confusion.

“That’s why we stopped using herd immunity in the classic sense,” Fauci said. “I’m saying: Forget that for a second. You vaccinate enough people, the infections are going to go down.”

With the emphasis remaining on vaccines, recent stats show that an alarming number of Americans are hesitant to make an appointment. Recent polls cited in the Times report, for example, show that as many as 30 percent of Americans remain vaccine-hesitant. And even if some of those who are currently reluctant can be convinced to partake in building a safer post-pandemic world, experts—including Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Marc Lipsitch—say hitting a mark of 90 percent coverage with the vaccine nationwide isn’t currently likely.

With all that in mind, what can the average person do to ensure the “manageable threat” goal is achieved and (hopefully) eventually results in herd immunity? Get vaccinated.

As for those who would lead you to believe that only older and more vulnerable people should bother getting vaccinated, it’s important to note the inherent fallacy of that argument. As Fauci himself recently explained, only worrying about yourself in the individual sense means you’re likely to inadvertently place others at (potentially serious/fatal) risk.

At the end of April, the White House announced 100 million Americans were now fully vaccinated, a figure that’s nearly double the amount recorded one month earlier. Earlier that month, the CDC updated its mask guidance for those who are fully vaccinated.

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