This has been a year of numbers—18.8 million coronavirus cases, 326,000 deaths—that can numb you. Behind each one is an American who is—or was—trying to get by, just like you. That's why this latest number is so startling: 90%. It may take 90% of all Americans getting the COVID vaccine before we reach herd immunity and get back to normal, according to a new interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. There are 328 million Americans, according to the Census Bureau. Ninety percent of that is 295,200,000.
So far, one million people have been vaccinated. Long way to go.
Fauci had previously said 70% or more would work. Read on to discover why he's revised that number—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.
"The Real Range is Somewhere Between 70 to 90 Percent"
Fauci admitted he had purposefully low-balled the number so as not to incite undue fear. "When polls said only about half of all Americans would take a vaccine, I was saying herd immunity would take 70 to 75 percent," Dr. Fauci told the New York Times. "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."
"We need to have some humility here," he added. "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."
Fauci defined herd immunity just recently, saying on the FiveThirtyEight podcast Podcast-19: "that means until you get a degree of immunity, that the level of infection is so low in the population, that there really is no longer a threat of a person getting infected." Then we could stop with the public health measures—unlike now, when we need them most. "Because when you get the virus right now, we're having a massive amount of community spread in the United States. If you get down to a very, very, very low baseline, then you could start pulling back on things like mask wearing and congregating. You can start going to restaurants and going to a movie or going to a theater, but until you get that level of virus really low by vaccinating a substantial proportion of the people, you still have to have some degree of public health measures that you're implementing."
Reaching 70 to 90% is All the More Reason to Get Vaccinated, Say Doctors
Darren P. Mareiniss, MD, FACEP, Clinical Faculty in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia, got his vaccine this week and urges you to do the same. "We cannot allow the continued spread of this deadly virus with the hope that it will eventually run its course," he says. "There is a quick and effective option that will achieve the goals of herd immunity without the needless deaths: vaccination. Through mass vaccination, we can put an end to the terrible and destructive pandemic without the carnage of herd immunity through unchecked viral spread."
Fauci is hoping people will be convinced. In polls, some say they feel the vaccine was rushed, and therefore not safe. Others are anti-vaccines.
"If you look at the anti-vaxxers as a whole," Fauci said in October, "there's a hardcore group that no matter what you do, you're not going to change their mind, but there's also a group that are against vaccines because they've absorbed misinformation. And if you could, in a way that's non-confrontational, give them the correct information, you may be able to win them over if they were open minded enough to realize that maybe the information upon which they made their judgment of not wanting to get vaccinated is in fact incorrect. And you could give them the correct information. There are a number of other people that don't get vaccinated because they don't have the time, but they don't fully appreciate the importance and the seriousness of it. If you can make it easier for them to get vaccinated, you may win over at least a segment of the people who for one reason or other does not want to get vaccinated."
How to Survive This Pandemic
As for yourself, follow Fauci's fundamentals and help end this surge, no matter where you live—wear a face mask, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, get vaccinated when it becomes available to you, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.