What herd immunity looks like!

People keep asking what will herd immunity look like and at what point in the vaccination cycle can we return to normal activity. Many numbers have been proffered. Dr. Fauci has stated it will require anywhere from 70 to 90% of the population being immunized. Others have hypothesized that only 20% or 30% of the population being immunized would be adequate given that many people have already been infected.

None of these estimates are based in reality.

The best data on COVID-19 herd immunity from vaccination comes from Israel. Israel has been very aggressive in immunizing their population and did this at a time when they were in lockdown because of having some of the highest rates of infection in the world. The Israeli outcome from their vaccine campaign is now becoming clear.

Israel in late December and early January was having some of the highest infection rates in the world. Daily counts of new cases peak at about 8000 per day on January 17 of this year. Vaccinations were started around December 20 while Israel was in lockdown. Infections started to decrease and the lockdown ended the first week in February. At that time first dose vaccinations had approached 35% with second dose (completed) vaccinations approaching 25%. That is almost the identical all situation the US finds itself at right now.

From Israel Government statistics. Graph from B.H. Renton.

Israel has continued to aggressively immunize their adults population and now has approximately 55% of the country fully immunized. At this time daily new infections have fallen to zero. That’s right zero. This is all the more remarkable given the fact that Israel has in many ways resume normal activity.

While Israel is very different from the United States, being a much more homogeneous and smaller country, evidence of herd immunity is starting to show. Despite daily new cases in the United States hovering around the 40 to 50 thousand range, deaths have not shot up. Deaths yesterday were only 300, a far cry from the over 3500 a day seen in January.

This is despite the fact that only 39% of the US population has received at least one dose of the vaccine and only 23% of the population has been fully vaccinated. The reason for the drop in deaths as compared to infection is because of populations who were most likely to die from COVID-19, those over the age of 65, now lead in the percentage of vaccination at more than 60% fully vaccinated.

So if we want to return to normalcy we need to get the majority of individuals in the adult population immunized. This would likely require at least 55 or 60% of the total population being fully immunized, similar to Israel.

There is more than enough vaccine available to do this. The federal government has done their part but now many states have to be more effective in getting their populations vaccinated.

If all goes well, however, the concept that July 4 would be a day of emancipation from COVID-19 could actually be a reality.

Published by jbakerjrblog

Immunologist, former Army MD, former head of allergy and clinical immunology at University of Michigan, vaccine developer and opinionated guy.

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