The United States is projected to reach herd immunity against the virus from China by the end of summer or early fall, Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Wednesday, adding that people can begin to change their behaviors as more and more people get vaccinated.
“We don’t want to get too hung up on reaching this, this end game of herd immunity, because every day that you put 2 million to 3 million vaccinations into people makes society be more and more protected. So you don’t have to wait until you get full herd immunity to get a really profound effect on what you could do,” said Fauci, the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a top adviser to President Joe Biden, during a White House COVID-19 briefing.
Approximately 32.8 million Americans have received full COVID-19 vaccinations as of March 10, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Another 62.4 million have received one of two required doses of either Moderna’s or Pfizer’s vaccine.
COVID-19 is the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
Herd immunity is the concept of a population becoming protected against an illness because a certain percentage of people have either had the illness and recovered or been vaccinated against the malady.
Fauci has acknowledged that pinpointing the percentage required to reach immunity against the new virus is an inexact science and has changed his perspective multiple times on the level.
Noting that measles requires a herd immunity level of around 90 percent, Fauci said Wednesday that experts speculate the level for the new virus will be from 70 percent to 85 percent.
“And that’s the time that we believe if you look at the planned rollout of the vaccines, that we would hopefully get to that point somewhere by the end of the summer and the early fall,” he said. “If a significant number of people do not get vaccinated, then that would that would delay where we would get to that endpoint.”
The number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths have dropped sharply over recent weeks, prompting a number of governors to loosen restrictions, including Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
But federal officials have urged people to largely adhere to social distancing and masking whenever they’re out in public, claiming a resurgence of the virus could be around the corner if they do not.
The CDC on Monday released guidance for people who have been fully vaccinated, telling them that neither masks nor physical distancing is required when they are in private places with others who have gotten the vaccines or people who are at low risk of contracting severe COVID-19.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky on Wednesday suggested future guidelines could advise people who have been vaccinated not to wear masks while traveling.
“While we are starting to see emerging evidence that the vaccines remain effective against circulating variants and that the risk of breakthrough infections in vaccinated persons and spreading the virus to others is low, we must be resolute in our efforts to fully answer these critical questions. When answered, they will inform the future guidance that will enable us to safely resume activities while also protecting others who remain vulnerable to this disease,” she said.
But officials also cautioned that each area should reach the herd immunity level in order to get the best protection.
“These are local rates as well. So if you have a population rate that is 85 percent protected across the country, but a community that’s only 50 percent protected, you can have outbreaks in that community,” said Walensky. “And so really, we need this level of protection pervasive across all communities across the country.”
Also on Wednesday, the Biden administration announced its intention to procure an additional 100 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine.
“We want to be oversupplied and overprepared” during the “wartime” response to the pandemic, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters in Washington, adding that experts don’t know which shots will be most effective in preventing the virus in children.