The U.S. needs to ramp up vaccinations to reach herd immunity

Drew Altman, Kaiser Family Foundation
·2 min read

The U.S. would need to significantly ramp up coronavirus vaccinations if we’re going to reach herd immunity any time soon.

Why it matters: At minimum, herd immunity requires vaccinating 70% of the population. And reaching that benchmark is especially difficult — because children aren’t eligible for the vaccines yet, the U.S. would need to inoculate the vast majority of adults.

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By the numbers: The U.S. would need to administer 2.4 million doses per day in order to vaccinate 70% of the population by July 4.

  • To get there by Labor Day would require 1.9 million doses per day.

  • To reach herd immunity by Jan. 1, 2022, we’d need 1.2 million doses per day.

Where it stands: The Centers for Disease Control reported 1.6 million vaccinations last Friday, and yesterday the Biden administration upped its goal — it's now aiming for 1.5 million shots per day, instead of 1 million.

  • If the administration also uses that time to create a better, more coordinated process, including standing up more vaccine sites, then ramping up to 2 million to 3 million doses per day by the summer seems reasonable.

Yes, but: Supply may be the limiting factor.

  • There are some reasons for optimism, though, with vaccines from Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca and Novavax expected to come online this year.

  • The Johnson & Johnson vaccine only requires one shot, so those supplies will stretch further.

What we’re watching: Getting this job done will require an adequate build- up of supply, and the Biden administration will have to respond quickly to new issues as they arise.

  • Reaching such a large percentage of the adult population will also require overcoming vaccine hesitancy, especially in rural America and communities of color.

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