Herd immunity in the difficult goal of the United States to meet vaccination rates

The United States does not need to vaccinate everyone to reach herd immunity, but herd immunity can be a difficult goal to meet current vaccination rates.

The New York Times published an article on May 3 with the headline “In the United States, it is unlikely to reach’herd immunity’, experts now believe.” “Herd immunity” soared in Google’s search interests, with many searching for percentages to achieve herd immunity.

This surge is consistent with a surge in interest in searching for vaccines for children, with reports that Pfizer could approve vaccines for some children as early as next week.

In the latest article, social media users are talking How many people actually need to be vaccinated To achieve herd immunity, herd immunity Not available, And that Vaccinations for children can help The United States reaches herd immunity.

Claim: Herd immunity can only be reached if the entire US population is vaccinated

No. Herd immunity protects some non-vaccinated populations. Therefore, the majority of the population is vaccinated, but not 100%.

The World Health Organization, in its definition of herd immunity, explains that “a significant proportion of the population needs to be vaccinated” to achieve herd immunity. In addition, one of the goals of herd immunity is “to keep vulnerable groups who cannot be vaccinated (for example, due to health conditions such as allergic reactions to vaccines) safe and protected from illness.” doing.

“Even unvaccinated individuals (such as newborns and immunodeficiencies) have little chance of spreading the disease to the community, which provides some protection,” said the Association of Infection Control Epidemiology Experts on Herd Immunity. Included in the definition.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the reason this works is that “when enough people are vaccinated against a particular disease, the bacteria cannot easily move from person to person and can infect the entire community. Is low. Illness. “

Many experts believe that the herd immunity threshold for COVID-19 is at least 70%, but it can be higher. As of the afternoon of May 3, 44.4% of the total U.S. population had been vaccinated at least once, and 31.8% of the total U.S. population had been fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. I will.

Claim: Herd immunity can be achieved without vaccination of children

It’s very unlikely. When calculating herd immunity, children are included as part of the total population and almost all adults in the United States need to be vaccinated to reach the current estimated threshold.

The US Census Bureau estimated in 2019 that children under the age of 18 accounted for about 22.3% of the total population. This includes the ages 17 and 16 who are vaccinated, but we can still see that about 80% of the population is vaccinated.

According to a poll from the non-profit Kaiser Family Foundation, 13% of respondents will definitely not be vaccinated, and another 7% will be vaccinated only when needed. This is about 20% of the adult population who are unlikely to be vaccinated. If 20% of adults are not vaccinated and children are not vaccinated, about 64% of the population will remain vaccinated. The threshold required to reach herd immunity is still unknown, but experts estimate that 70% to 90% of Americans need to be vaccinated to reach community immunity.

As of the afternoon of May 3, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had at least one vaccination of 44.4% of the total U.S. population and 31.8% of the total U.S. population was fully vaccinated. It states.

A clinical trial of a vaccine for children is currently underway, according to an article from Yale University on participation in school trials. Initially for children over 12 years old, and now for children under 12 years old. This article explains that children’s clinical trials take longer than adult clinical trials due to additional safety considerations regarding children’s physical development.

According to news reports, the FDA will soon approve Pfizer’s vaccine for children over the age of 12.

Claim: I know how many people need to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity

This is wrong.

No. Public health experts have estimates, but acknowledge that actual thresholds are still unknown and subject to change based on factors such as variant, location, and behavior.

As of April 28, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, “We are still learning how many people need to be vaccinated with COVID-19 before most people are considered protected.” I will. In a December 31 update of the World Health Organization, “The percentage of the population that needs COVID-19 vaccination to initiate herd immunity is unknown. This is an important area of ​​research and community, It may vary depending on the vaccine, the high priority population of vaccination, and other factors. “

In early April, a writer at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health elaborated on lowering the level of interaction in the community, lowering infection rates and lowering the thresholds needed to achieve herd immunity. did. Incidence can increase as society becomes more widespread and as viruses mutate and become more contagious. This means that most of the population needs to be vaccinated to reach herd immunity. In addition, the virus can spread and mutate in other countries with a small vaccinated population, and those mutations can potentially resist older vaccines, unpredictable in herd immunity calculations. Add possible levels.

Based on what is known so far, the writers said that at least 70% of the population would need to be vaccinated to reach herd immunity. The University of Missouri Health article estimates a higher threshold for herd immunity: 80-90%.

This story is part of the VERIFY Weekly series. Check out other VERIFY Weekly on the YouTube channel.

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Herd immunity in the difficult goal of the United States to meet vaccination rates

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