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COVID-19 Vaccine Uptake in the US May Delay Achieving Herd Immunity, say experts

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The U.S. has already vaccinated more than 100 million people against COVID-19, according to the CDC. But it will take 80% – 90% of Americans to get the Covid Vaccine shots before reaching herd immunity, as stated by the Country’s top infectious diseases expert Dr. Anthony Fauci.

There are 328 million people in the US, according to the Census Bureau. 90% of that is 295,200,000.

After analyzing the ongoing vaccination plan, some experts and healthcare officials argue that herd immunity to Covid-19 cannot be achieved in the near future or is simply impossible, with the deadly virus here to linger for years, but with less intensity.

While it is hard to forecast future mortality rates and how much healthcare systems will be overloaded amid the rapidly changing situation and new strains looming across the world, experts underline the tempo of vaccination is not enough to earn population-level immunity in the foreseeable future. At the same time, they stress that inoculation, particularly of those in the high-risk category, will significantly contribute to the curbing of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“The virus is unlikely to go away. But we want to do all we can to check that it’s likely to become a mild infection”

says Rustom Antia, a biologist from Emory University in Atlanta cited by The New York Times on Monday

“It is theoretically possible that we could get to about 90 percent vaccination coverage, but not super likely, I would say”

said Marc Lipsitch, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The issue is getting complicated due to the potential ineffectiveness of vaccines, especially against new variants, along with almost a third of Americans not willing to get the vaccine jabs. Besides, experts declare that “disease transmission is local” as not all parts of the US or even the rest of the world are equally prepared for the vaccination drives.

“If the coverage is 95 percent in the United States as a whole, but 70 percent in some small town, the virus doesn’t care. It will make its way around the small town”.

Lipsitch noted.

This means that a coronavirus spike in areas with lower immunization rates could get transmitted to well-protected areas.

“The herd immunity for a wealthy neighbourhood might be X, then you go into a crowded neighbourhood one block away and it’s 10X”

said Dr David M. Morens, a virologist and senior adviser to top US virologist Anthony Fauci.

Health experts allege that vaccination along with vigilant testing and tracking are still critical for controlling the disease and transforming it to a seasonal cold that would impact only the young and healthy. In the long run, it’s thought that COVID-19 will become a common flu as people will overcome the virus at an early age and further develop immunity.

“What we want to do at the very least is get to a point where we have just really sporadic little flare-ups. That would be a very sensible target in this country where we have an excellent vaccine and the ability to deliver it”.

said Carl Bergstrom, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Washington in Seattle.

“The vast majority of the mortality and of the stress on the health care system comes from people with a few particular conditions, and especially people who are over 60. If we can protect those people against severe illness and death, then we will have turned COVID from a society disrupter to a regular infectious disease,” Lipsitch asserted.

Mr Biden will give an update later today on the country’s progress in curbing Covid, after admitting confusion on whether herd immunity is achievable.

The President was asked by a reporter about herd immunity, to which he replied:

“There’s a debate about what constitutes herd immunity.”

But Mr Biden also stated “by the end of the summer, we’ll be in a very different position” regardless of the precise percentage of immunity in the US.

Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC:

“We’re not going to get everyone vaccinated.

“If we can get two-thirds of the population vaccinated or a little bit better than that, that’s going to be a pretty good level of protection.”

Over the last week, the US has averaged 2.4 million reported vaccinations per day.

Data from Johns Hopkins University also shows the rate of infection is falling in the US, with an average of 49,000 cases per day.

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