Coronavirus US

Coronavirus US: will 100% of the population be immunized by the summer?

The US Covid-19 vaccine rollout continues to gather pace. By the end of last week, 28% of the population had received both shots and is now fully vaccinated.

Coronavirus US: will 100% of the population be immunized by the summer?
FREDERIC J. BROWN AFP

The Covid-19 vaccine rollout continues at a steady pace in the United States. By the end of last week, a total of 226 million Covid-19 vaccines have been administered. At least 41.8% of the population have received at least one shot of the vaccine and 28%, almost a third of the country, is now fully vaccinated.

Close to a third of the US population is fully vaccinated

The vast majority, 118,628,496 people, have been given the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine and another 98,778,978 were administered the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine. A much lower number, just over 8 million, received the J&J/Janssen jabthe rollout of this particular vaccine was paused by the CDC just under a fortnight ago after it was linked to blood clotting although it is an extremely rare occurrence. So far, there have been 16 cases of blood clots out of 8,058,239 individuals who received the J&J shot. On Friday, the Food and Drug Administration and CDC, recommended lifting the pause to return to use the J&J vaccine.

From last week, all adults over the age of 16 residing in any US state or territory, are eligible to be inoculated against Covid-19. President Biden’s aim is to ensure the country has achieved herd immunity by Independence Day on 4 July, hopefully by that time, most aspects of life will be back to normal.

However, to get to a situation where herd immunity is close, health experts estimate that between 60 and 70% of the population need to have been vaccinated. It's estimated that 94% of the population must be vaccinated or immune to interrupt the chain of transmission. Some analysts even warn that achieving total herd immunity is actually impossible for several reasons – because the SARS-CoV-2 virus, like all viruses, is constantly mutating to adapt to its host and survive. As we have seen, there are already several variants in existence all over the world, some more contagious than others. Currently, there are five Covid-19 variants circulating in the US – B.1.1.7 (the Kent variant), B.1.351 (the South African variant), P.1 (the Brazilian variant) and two mutations which were identified in California in March 2021 (B.1.427 and B.1.429).

A fifth of US citizens don't want the vaccine

Another reason why herd immunity will be difficult to achieve is that under the current vaccination program, there are no plans to inoculate children. Also, many people simply don’t want to be vaccinated while others can’t for health reasons. In a recent poll conducted by Monmouth University, 21% of Americans admitted that they have no intention of receiving the vaccine. As in practically every country in the world, receiving a Covid-19 vaccine is voluntary in the US – it is only mandatory for frontline health workers.

Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci has stated that for the US to get close to herd immunity, between 70% to 85% of the population would need to get vaccinated. The US vaccination roll-out has been up and running since mid-December with 28% of the nation fully vaccinated in the first four months. The White House COVID-19 Response Team hopes the figure will be closer to 70% by the end of June. Even if that is achieved, health officials still don’t know if the vaccines will provide long-term protection or whether a booster jab will be required before the flu season.