The United States is unlikely to reach herd immunity as more contagious variants of COVID-19 spread and many Americans remain reluctant to be vaccinated, experts now say.
Instead, the virus, which has killed more than 577,000 across the country, will only become more manageable, scientists say.
“The virus is unlikely to go away,” Rustam Antia, an evolutionary biologist at Emory University in Atlanta, told the New York Times.
“But we want to do everything we can to see if it’s likely to turn into a mild infection.”
Currently, just under half of Americans have received one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, and about a third have been fully vaccinated, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Destruction is impossible at this stage,”
“But you want local eradication,” he said, citing a strategy in which communities can control potential outbreaks through vigilant testing and monitoring. Pradelsk and colleagues describe this strategy in an article published in The Lancet Thursday.
Earlier in the pandemic, scientists estimated that herd immunity would be reached when 60 to 70 percent of people either have natural immunity from a previous infection or immunity through inoculation.
A year later, that estimate has risen to at least 80 percent, mainly due to highly transmissible new mutations, the Times notes.
But now Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical adviser, is urging the public not to focus on herd immunity – but simply to focus on vaccination.
“People were confused and thought they would never get rid of the infections until you reached that mystical level of herd immunity, regardless of that number,” he told the newspaper.
“That’s why we stopped using herd immunity in the classical sense. I say: Forget it for a second. Vaccinate enough people, infections will decrease. “
In addition to new variants such as B.1.1.7 – the strain first identified in the UK that is thought to be 60 per cent more transmissible – vaccine variability plays a role in achieving a state of herd immunity.
About 22 percent of Americans say they will not receive the vaccine, according to a CBS News poll in late April.
In some countries, vaccine variability is even higher. Thirty-three percent of people in Wyoming say they will not be stabbed, while 27 percent in nearby Montana and 24.5 percent in Idaho say they would also refuse a vaccine, according to a recent Census Bureau survey.
The most common reasons for vaccine hesitation are concerns about side effects and the overall safety of shots.
In New York, however, the fluctuation is relatively low – only 11 percent of Empire State residents admit to being wary of inoculations, according to the data.
That number could fall, but not significantly, according to Harvard epidemiologist Mark Lipsic.
“It’s theoretically possible to reach about 90 percent of the vaccination coverage, but I wouldn’t say it’s very likely,” he told the Times.