WASHINGTON, D.C. – Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, medical officials have touted the possibility of the population developing “herd immunity” as people continued to either be vaccinated or infected, eventually giving them the antibodies needed to successfully resist the virus.
However, some experts are now saying – due to the rise and continued spread of COVID variants, which are proving to be more contagious and resistant to vaccines – that the concept of herd immunity may now be an impossibility.
“This month, the Infectious Diseases Society of America estimated that delta had pushed the threshold for herd immunity to well over 80% and possibly close to 90%,” reports say. “Public health officials like Anthony Fauci have drawn controversy by shifting the goalposts over the past year, increasing the number of people who need protection before hitting herd immunity. Meanwhile, vaccine hesitancy and supply issues mean most countries won’t get close to even the original numbers.”
Greg Poland, director of the Vaccine Research Group at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, said that even if the vaccination rate reaches extremely high levels – even as high as 95 percent – that herd immunity will still be out of reach due to COVID variants.
“Will we get to herd immunity? No, very unlikely, by definition,” he said. “It is a neck and neck race between the development of ever more highly transmissible variants which develop the capacity to evade immunity, and immunization rates.”
Experts initially speculated that herd immunity could be reached if anywhere from 50 percent to 70 percent of the population was inoculated, but as time has gone by and offshoots of COVID – such as the Delta variant – cause new surges of cases, medical officials like immunologist Dr. Anthony Fauci have been revising their estimates higher and higher.
But some experts are now saying that herd immunity may never happen, and that the population will simply have to deal with COVID as a reoccurring illness for the foreseeable future, similar to the yearly flu season.