Health experts have been pushing the concept of herd immunity to help the U.S. get past the pandemic. But now experts say reaching herd immunity is probably unlikely.
Herd immunity occurs when enough people become immune to a disease to make its spread unlikely. Herd immunity is typically achieved through vaccination, according to Harvard University.
More than half of adults in the U.S. have been inoculated with at least one dose of a vaccine. Daily vaccination rates however are dropping while cases caused by more complex and more aggressive covid variants are rising. Now the consensus among scientists and public health experts is that the herd immunity threshold is not reachable, The New York Times reported.
“People were getting confused and thinking you’re never going to get the infections down until you reach this mystical level of herd immunity, whatever that number is,” said Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the Biden administration’s top adviser on covid-19.
Experts do say the virus will most likely become a manageable health threat in much smaller numbers.
“The virus is unlikely to go away,” Rustom Antia, an evolutionary biologist at Emory University told The New York Times. “But we want to do all we can to check that it’s likely to become a mild infection.”
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About 30 percent of the U.S. population is still reluctant to be vaccinated, according to recent polls. Black Americans are still lagging in vaccinations. As of May 3, 2021, the CDC reported that race/ethnicity was known for just over half (55%) of people who had received at least one dose of the vaccine just 9 percent were Black people compared to 63 percent who were white.
“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.