There has been a question on everyone’s mind this entire year: when will this godforsaken pandemic end?
When the world found out that there was a vaccine for Covid-19, we all thought we finally had the answer to all our problems. Americans sighed in relief when USA bought the vaccine and sent a prayer to the heavens that our problems had been finally solved and we could finally begin going out again without risking our lives. It’s no secret that America handled this pandemic terribly, which is why everyone was so happy to know that the vaccine was finally available. It will probably take months to vaccinate everyone in America due to the government’s inability to get the vaccine and distribute it. There are many challenges to overcome but it is the only ray of hope in these dark times. Therefore, I think it’s okay if we hold on to it.
But there’s still some issues. As much as it annoys me to say this and it will probably annoy you even more to hear it, but the hard truth is that we cannot vaccinate our way out of this pandemic. The whole notion that we should focus on getting herd immunity through mass vaccination might make it harder for the world to beat the virus. I’m not saying that we should stop with mass vaccination. It is very essential to stay alive, but the fact is, herd immunity is all about the numbers. The concept behind herd immunity is that the spread of the disease is stopped by making most people immune to the disease. By doing so, the unprotected people are surrounded by so many immune people which makes the transfer of the disease very hard and effectively putting a stop to this pandemic. Experts say that we need 70% of the population to be immune to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, either through vaccination or by having had corona and thus possessing the antibodies needed.
The problem lies in reaching this number. Let’s look at Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. These vaccines have 95% efficiency in clinical trials. However, the trials can’t do justice to real-world conditions. There are plenty of reasons for this, such as most participants of the trials are young and healthy. They cannot correctly represent the whole population. Also, the transportation and storage of the vaccine can lead to a less effective vaccine. Let’s suppose the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines now being given across the country achieve 90% effectiveness. If we vaccinate 70% of Americans, we get an immunity of 63%. So, to get herd immunity which is 70% immunity, we will have to vaccinate 80% of the entire population. Now I don’t have to tell you, that vaccinating 80% of the population is a hard-enough feat within itself.
Other vaccines have also managed to get the stamp of approval, even though some of them have low efficacy. AstraZeneca has an efficacy of 70%, while Johnson & Johnson has said that one-dose of its vaccine has an efficacy of 66%. As we discussed earlier, the real-world efficacy will be much less. If these vaccines are used in the United States, to reach herd immunity, we will have to vaccinate more than 80% of the population as we discussed in the case of vaccinating with Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.
I wish I could tell you that these are the only barriers that we will face while trying to achieve herd immunity. One of the major issues we are facing right now is getting people to take the vaccine. Covid-19 has been very politicized in the United States and there are many Americans who believe that Covid-19 isn’t even real. A survey was done near the end of January which revealed that 13% of Americans declared that they will not get vaccinated. About 7% said that they would only get vaccinated if it’s necessary and a 31% said they would “wait and see how it’s working” before getting vaccinated. Like I said, achieving herd immunity is much harder than it seems.
Getting enough vaccine for everyone isn’t the only problem. Many other factors will bring down the number of people who get vaccinated. One example that I can give to you is President Biden invoking the Defense Production Act. 25% of U.S. residents are not eligible to get the Covid-19 vaccination due to many reasons. Vaccines are limited by age. The Pfizer vaccine can only be given to people older than 16 while the Moderna vaccine can only be administered to those older than 18. This makes up around 20% of the population. There is also a debate on whether pregnant women can get vaccinated or not. The decision to get vaccinated is personal and should be made by consulting with health care providers. Lets set aside the conspiracy theorist who don’t believe in vaccinations.
After excluding everyone who cannot get vaccinated due to age or other conditions, we are left with 75% of the American population who can get vaccinated without any issues. But if we factor in the Americans who have decided to never get vaccinated and the ones who only want to if it’s required, we are left with about 49.5% of Americans who can be vaccinated. If half the people who want to see the effects of the vaccine before making their decision decide to not get vaccinated, we are left with just around 40% of the population who will get vaccinated. So, reaching our goal of 70% for herd immunity won’t be achieved. The worst part is we get 40% immunity without even factoring in the real-world issues.
The youngsters, who cannot get the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines due to their age, carry Covid-19 without any symptoms and they are spreading it without even being aware of the fact that they are infected. This leaves the population unprotected and enables the disease to spread quickly. There’s one last issue that I have to tell you. We don’t know how long the different vaccines will work which could lead to more outbreaks of the virus.
The HIV and AIDS epidemic taught us one thing, no matter how well we plan out anything, things will always go wrong. We need to vaccinate 248 million people to reach 75%, which means we need around 500 million doses. After viewing the numbers, it’s apparent that we need to be vaccinating around 2 million people a day to achieve herd immunity by the fall of 2021. Do you know how many people are getting vaccinated right now? Only a million people a day. At this rate, we will be able to achieve 75% immunity in Americans by April 2022. And this is just the best-case scenario. There are so many things that could go wrong such as the SARS-CoV-2 could mutate further which would make fighting the disease much harder.
I believe it’s time for us to stop believing that herd immunity will help end this pandemic. It is impossible to achieve herd immunity in 2021. So, we need to reinforce all aspects of the health care response and accept that Covid-19 will become an endemic disease that will stay in the population. All of us need to continue with social distancing and wear protective masks. We should have limited occupancy in restaurants and other retail establishments; replacement of physical menus with smartphone-based menus to prevent the surface spread of the virus, and more.
Other than that, we need to keep an eye on the people who have been vaccinated to see how long the immunity lasts and to check if we will need booster shots as we do for tetanus and diphtheria. To sum it up, as we cannot rely on herd immunity, our nation needs to improve the public health infrastructure and put in new protocols to check for new mutations of SARS-CoV-2 as soon as they come.
The question still lingers. Will we be able to defeat Corona? Yes, we will. However, we need to keep our eye on the prize rather than getting distracted by the near-term goal of achieving herd immunity. Herd immunity will eventually be achieved but it requires more time. To beat Covid-19, we will have to utilize all the tools at our disposal.
The biggest database about the corona shots being given around the world has been built by Bloomberg. It administered in around 119 million doses throughout the world. Many officials believe that it will require 70% to 80% of the population to bring immune to regain normalcy. According to Bloomberg’s Vaccine Tracker, some countries are rapidly progressing in defeating the virus by using 75% coverage with a two-dose vaccine as a target.
The country that has the highest vaccination rate worldwide is Israel. In just two months, Israel managed to get 75% coverage. The United States is expected to get there by the start of 2022. However, the rest of the world will lag seven years behind. Rich Western countries have more people getting vaccinated as compared to the rest of the world. This will lead to Corona living on even after 2022.
The United States has felt the true wrath of Covid-19. The pandemic was handled horribly by the government and the people which led to an uncontrollable spread of the disease. Even now, with millions getting vaccinated, millions of people getting the virus. Wearing masks and social distancing is the only solution we have for now to slow down the spread of the virus.
I know that all of us got very excited when we heard about the effectiveness of the vaccine in December. We all hoped that it would slow or eventually stop the spread of the disease through the rest of the population. However, vaccination alone will not end this pandemic. If we stop being cautious, Corona will prevail and thousands more will die.
I’m not saying that getting vaccinated is useless. Vaccination helps protect the person from the disease. But we know now that there’s a lot more we need to do to defeat this disease globally.
According to research, more than 105 million people in the United States have already been the victim of Corona. The real number would be much higher because many people don’t even get tested because they don’t have symptoms. These numbers show that millions more will be affected by Covid-19.
So, what’s the solution? Wearing masks and practicing social distancing. Researchers believe that we will have to do this till at least the end of July. But they also fear that another resurgence may happen. Even though the SOPs are being followed, many areas in America have been so badly affected by corona that even the vaccine can’t bring about a big change. In North Dakota, 60% of the population got infected. Vaccination will just assist in the pandemic dying out on its own.
The whole world has been patiently waiting for the Covid-19 vaccine but some countries such as the United States, Brazil, and England, were, in particular, more eager. They expected more out of the vaccine than the vaccine could deliver. The vaccine was never going to be enough to get everything back to normal.
Like I mentioned earlier, there are many reasons for the delay in people getting vaccinated. There is still on-going research on how well the vaccine can defend against mutated versions of the virus and how effectively it can prevent transmission. Also, other reasons include the manufacture of bottlenecks, distributing the vaccine, and the hesitancy of people to get vaccinated due to fear of the vaccine.
We have now reached a point where the “pandemic fatigue” has set in. Even with the speed with which the vaccines were developed, due to the hurdles and uncertainties, people have become disillusioned with the vaccine.
I know it’s easy to give up and believe that we will be stuck in this pandemic forever. However, we need to rejoice in our wins. We did make a vaccine that is effective against Covid-19 and in my opinion, that is worth celebrating.
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