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While vaccinations in the US and around the global community signal the potential to finally stabilize the COVID-19 pandemic, some experts are sharing concerns that not enough people are getting vaccinated, thereby jeopardizing the chances of the U.S. achieving herd immunity against the virus.
The World Health Organization (WHO) describes herd immunity as “the indirect protection from an infectious disease that happens when a population is immune either through vaccination or immunity developed through previous infection.”
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On Monday, Dr. Leana Wen, a medical analyst for CNN who has held former posts as the Health Commissioner for the city of Baltimore and president of Planned Parenthood, voiced her concerns.
“What I really worry about is that those people who are already on the fence don’t get vaccinated (and) we don’t reach herd immunity come the fall,” said Wen. “And then with the winter .. we have a big resurgence, maybe we have variants coming in from other countries, and we could start this whole process all over again and have another huge pandemic come the winter.”
Like other health experts, Wen shared doubts about the possibility that the US will reach herd immunity due to a ‘return to normal’ attitude that Americans may take on, “regardless of whether they were vaccinated or not.”
Roughly 44% of Americans have received at least one vaccine dose and 31% are fully vaccinated, according to data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci has estimated since last year that 80% of the US population needs to be vaccinated in order to reach herd immunity.
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The concern that medical experts have about coronavirus variants is underscored by the current situations of other countries. India and Brazil are trailing the US in leading the world’s COVID-19 cases, at over 20 million and 14 million cases respectively.
Though herd immunity appears to be a distant goal, Dr. Fauci has said progress can be made by focusing on vaccinations.
“Rather than fixating on [herd immunity], why don’t we just say, Get as many people vaccinated as quickly as we possibly can,” said Fauci. “And every day that goes by … we’re getting closer and closer to control of this pandemic.”
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