Herd immunity in the U.S. unlikely

The race to develop an effective vaccine against the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is on, with many vaccine candidates entering the human trial phase. When a vaccine is developed and introduced into the population at scale, it triggers herd immunity, with many people immune to the infectious disease. This then provides indirect protection to those who are not immune to the disease. However, to achieve this, at least 70 to 90 percent of the population should be immune to the virus.

Image Credit: ext143 / Shuttertock
Image Credit: ext143 / Shuttertock

Dr. Anthony Fauci

Dr. Anthony Fauci, an American physician, and immunologist who has served as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the United States since 1984 warned that it is unlikely that the country will achieve herd immunity to the novel coronavirus if a portion of the population refuses to vaccinate.

He added that due to the number of people who refused to practice personal mitigation measures, such as social distancing and wearing of masks, the cases in the country has surged to a staggering 2.62 million.

“What has happened, I guess understandably, but nonetheless regrettably, is that people took the attitude in some places of either all or none. Either you’re locked down, or you just let it fly, and you just ignore many of the guidelines of social distancing, mask-wearing, abstaining from shaking hands and avoiding large crowds,” Fauci said in an interview.

“What happened is you see pictures on the T.V. of the fact that even in states that are telling their citizens to do it correctly, they’re doing that. There are crowds. They are not physical distancing, and they’re not wearing masks. That’s a recipe for disaster. It’s something I spoke about time and again,” he added.

In another interview as part of the Aspen Ideas Festival, Fauci said he would settle for a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) that is about 70 to 75 effective since it can already trigger a herd immunity as long as many people get it.

However, Fauci warns that if a fraction of the population does not get the vaccine; for instance, 25 percent refuse to get vaccinated, the country will not achieve herd immunity.

He said that any vaccine would not be 100 percent protective against the coronavirus. No vaccine in the world is 100 percent effective; the best one available is the measles vaccine, which is 97 percent effective.

Vaccine efforts

The race against the coronavirus is now on, with many companies working on developing the vaccine. One of China’s candidate vaccine has now entered phase III of its human trials, while others have started testing their vaccines.

In the United States, the administration launched Operation Warp Speed to hasten and speed up the development and distribution of a vaccine once it gets developed. The Department of Health and Human Services has announced that it is joining forces with AstraZeneca, a pharmaceutical drug company, for about 300 million doses of the vaccine against COVID-19 that is being developed by the University of Oxford.

The U.S. is awaiting a safe and effective vaccine, with five trials underway. The country is eyeing to have a vaccine by the end of the year.

Vaccine information dissemination

Informing the people of the benefits of getting the vaccine against the SARS-CoV-2 is crucial in fighting the pandemic. In the U.S., the number of infections has topped a staggering 2.62 million and the death toll has surpassed 127,000.

The government needs to identify cases through mass testing and intensive contact tracing effectively. People can harbor the virus without symptoms, making it more difficult to contain.

“When you have community spread, it’s insidious because there are so many people in the community who are infected but asymptomatic. It makes it extremely problematic to do efficient contact tracing because most of the people who are infected don’t even know they’re infected. So how do you do contact tracing when someone doesn’t have any symptoms?” Fauci commented.

Angela Betsaida B. Laguipo

Written by

Angela Betsaida B. Laguipo

Angela is a nurse by profession and a writer by heart. She graduated with honors (Cum Laude) for her Bachelor of Nursing degree at the University of Baguio, Philippines. She is currently completing her Master's Degree where she specialized in Maternal and Child Nursing and worked as a clinical instructor and educator in the School of Nursing at the University of Baguio.


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