Jan 26, 2021 - Health

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

Grant Hindsley/AFP via Getty Images

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.

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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