People wait in line to receive vaccines against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital in Willowbrook, Los Angeles, California, on February 25, 2021.
The United States “is nowhere near” achieving herd immunity against Covid, and more transmissible variants mean even more people will need to be vaccinated to reach it, a CDC scientist said Friday.
Herd immunity occurs when enough people in a given community have antibodies against a specific disease, either from vaccination or previous exposure to the virus. That makes person-to-person transmission difficult and even protects people who don’t have immunity.
“We now know that the majority of the US population is not immune to SARS-CoV-2 and the variants can increase this part of the population that is not immune,” said Adam MacNeil, epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Disease Control and Prevention.
To reach the threshold of herd immunity while fighting new and more contagious virus strains, a larger proportion of the population needs to be vaccinated, MacNeil said at a Food and Drug Administration meeting that reviewed Johnson & Johnson’s request to authorize your Covid-19 vaccine for emergencies to use.
Scientists do not believe that immunity lasts forever. It weakens over time and that could exacerbate the outbreak, as previously protected people become vulnerable to infection, MacNeil said.
MacNeil’s comments come a week after a Wall Street Journal op-ed claimed that the United States will achieve herd immunity in April.
While Covid variants have been shown to decrease the effectiveness of a Covid vaccine in protecting against infections, the vaccines have been shown to be effective in preventing serious illness and hospitalization against the most infectious strains.
The expanded vaccination would substantially slow down the current trajectory of a highly contagious variant of Covid that was first identified in the UK to become the dominant virus strain in the US in March, MacNeil said.
MacNeil said increased vaccinations will be critical for the country to catch up with the benchmark.
“Vaccination has started and hopefully this is bringing us closer to filling the herd immunity gap.”