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When can the United States reach herd immunity? it’s complicated.




With Vaccine deployment In progress Coronavirus case It may appear to decline after a dark winter surge and see the end of the pandemic. How quickly can you actually get there?

One answer lies in herd immunity. This is when a sufficient number of people are immune to the virus and can no longer spread throughout the population. However, the time it takes to get there depends not only on the speed of vaccination, but also on other factors, such as the number of people already infected and the ease with which the virus spreads.

Estimating the path to herd immunity

20%40%60%80%100% immunity of the populationRange of herd immunityComplete immunity Fully vaccinated DecemberJanuary 2021FebruarymarchAprilMayJuneJulyAugustSeptemberOctoberNovemberDecember

This chart shows the current path to herd immunity in the United States, based on the model developed by. PHICOR, Public Health Research Group.Find out how many people have been Fully vaccinated Combine it with an estimated number of people who have been infected, recovered, and measured. Complete immunity..

When the orange line intersects the blue area, it means we have entered Range of herd immunity.. The exact threshold for coronavirus herd immunity is unknown, but recent estimates range from 70% to 90%.

At first, this looks like pretty good news — under these assumptions we were able to reach herd immunity as early as July. But in the meantime, many things can happen. The speed and intake of vaccination and how long the immunity lasts are major factors. The rise of new viral variants and how to respond to them also influences the path to herd immunity.

In most scenarios, millions more people will be infected and tens or hundreds of thousands will die before reaching herd immunity.

What if I speed up vaccination?

More than 15 million people are fully vaccinated, and the United States currently has about 1.7 million vaccinations per day.Some experts say it’s almost possible Double that pace By April, when the new vaccine is approved. (Current vaccines require two doses every few weeks, so fewer people are fully vaccinated daily.)

The more people who are vaccinated, the sooner they may reach the herd immunity threshold.

Please select a scenario

If the pace increases to 3 million shots per day, the threshold for group immunity can be reached. May.. At that time, 90,000 People can die from the virus.

20%40%60%80%100% immunity of the populationRange of herd immunityComplete immunity Vaccine immunity MayThresholdReachedJulyThresholdReachedDecemberJanuary 2021FebruarymarchAprilMayJuneJulyAugustSeptemberOctoberNovemberDecember

It is important to note that the orange line of complete immunity depends on the presumption of already infected people, including those who are immunized from undiagnosed cases. Once the pink line of vaccination falls within that range, you can be more certain to reach the herd’s immunity. However, in scenarios where new but ineffective vaccines arrive, vaccination alone may not reach the threshold.

There are also some other caveats to this model. Much is still unknown about how long the immunity from the vaccine lasts or how well the vaccine protects against new variants of the virus. Estimates also assume that the vaccine not only reduces the severity of coronavirus symptoms, but also prevents infection.

“There is a lack of important information that could have a substantial impact on what happens to the pandemic in the coming months,” said Bruce, a professor of health policy at City University of New York and head of PHICOR’s research activities. Dr. Y. Lee said. ,Said. “If many people lose their immunity in the next few months after recovering from the infection, more people will be more susceptible to the virus again.”

Some experts say that reducing mortality and severe illness is a better achievable goal than complete herd immunity, and increasing vaccination is still the best way to do it. Insist.

What if we relax the social distance?

Measures such as wearing a mask and social distance have proven to be effective in slowing the spread of the virus. As more people are vaccinated, they will want to relax their precautions.

This means that more people get sick and develop antibodies, which means they reach herd immunity faster, but at a strict cost.

Please select a scenario

When the restriction ends in April, the herd immunity threshold can be reached as follows: June.. But then 170,000 More people can die from the virus.

20%40%60%80%100% immunity of the populationRange of herd immunityComplete immunity Vaccine immunity JuneThresholdReachedOctoberThresholdReachedDecemberJanuary 2021FebruarymarchAprilMayJuneJulyAugustSeptemberOctoberNovemberDecember

Preventive measures are especially important as new variants of the virus emerge. Failure to follow social distance measures can lead to rapid infection of more powerful viruses, killing hundreds of thousands of people before they are vaccinated.

What happens when more contagious variants spread?

More infectious virus variants, such as the first virus identified in the United Kingdom spread Throughout the United States, the path to herd immunity can be further complicated.

As the virus becomes more contagious, the threshold for herd immunity rises. Vaccines can be difficult to maintain pace, and precautions will be needed further to stop the spread.

Please select a scenario

More contagious mutants spread faster and raise the threshold for herd immunity.We could still expect to reach group immunity July, But new deaths can double 200,000 Man.

20%40%60%80%100% immunity of the populationRange of herd immunityComplete immunity Vaccine immunity JulyThresholdReachedThresholdNot deliveredDecemberJanuary 2021FebruarymarchAprilMayJuneJulyAugustSeptemberOctoberNovemberDecember

Due to the spread of new viral variants, it is not possible to determine when to reach herd immunity or when the pandemic will end. Mutations can lead to versions of the virus that do not respond to existing immunity, and we will begin our journey to herd immunity again.

Dr. Lee said that coronaviruses have a relatively high mutation rate and that new variants of the virus are likely to continue to emerge. “The question is how these variants differ,” he said. If a variant of the virus becomes unresponsive to the vaccine, “the question is whether and when a new vaccine needs to be made.”


The model used in this article is American Journal of Preventive Medicine It has also been updated to reflect the latest estimates of coronavirus prevalence, infectivity, and severity as of February 16.

To adapt the model to the Web, the New York Times collaborated with researchers in public health informatics, computational and operations research, or PHICOR: Bruce Y. Lee, Sarah M. Balch, Kelly J. Ossia, Patrick T. Wedrock and Marie C. Ferguson.

We use historical case data, the best available estimates of viral infectivity, and the effects of social distance measurements to estimate new cases and future trajectories of death when the vaccine is given. Vaccine immunity represents the proportion of people who are fully vaccinated and immunized, taking into account the effectiveness of the vaccines available.

This model assumes that immunity lasts indefinitely and that vaccination not only reduces the severity of coronavirus symptoms, but also prevents infection. It does not explain the immunity that may be obtained from a single dose of the vaccine.

The vaccine is expected to prevent infection with current and future coronavirus variants in 90% of fully vaccinated individuals and ultimately fully vaccinated in 80% of the population.

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