On the same day New York announced that Broadway would open early due to improvements in the pandemic, the New York Times declared that “herd immunity to COVID-19 cannot be achieved.” Talk about moving the goalposts!
The Times believes the “failure of herd immunity” results from declining vaccination rates, “variants,” and the inability to completely immunize the population. This is asserted despite there being no data showing that any variant SARS-CoV-2 virus escapes the current RNA vaccines or that levels of vaccination affording group immune protection cannot be achieved with the current vaccine campaigns.
The article goes on to quote unnamed “public health experts” stating that the “threshold” for herd immunity is “not attainable— at least not in the foreseeable future, and perhaps not ever.” However, they never identify what this “threshold” for herd immunity actually is!
The piece also proffers that “experts” are “coming to the conclusion that rather than making a long-promised exit, the virus will most likely become a manageable threat that will continue to circulate in the United States for years to come, still causing hospitalizations and deaths but in much smaller numbers.”
This actually sounds like what most people thought we could achieve with herd immunity! Did anyone actually think we could sterilize the world to make COVID-19 go away completely? Suppressing the pandemic seemed like an optimal goal, with controlling smaller outbreaks as they happened something that would continue for some time. Importantly, having enough immunity to allow normal activity and stop the lockdowns was foremost in most people’s minds.
There are two quotes in this article that make no sense. First, there is, “The virus is unlikely to go away,” said Rustom Antia, an evolutionary biologist at Emory University in Atlanta. “But we want to do all we can to check that it’s likely to become a mild infection.” This is crazy. The virus won’t change into a “mild infection” unless you have immunity against it, most likely from a vaccine.
Also, there is this quote from Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the Biden administration’s top adviser on Covid-19. He reportedly, “acknowledged the shift in experts’ thinking” and said, “People were getting confused and thinking you’re never going to get the infections down until you reach this mystical level of herd immunity, whatever that number is.” Isn’t he the one who put out the “mystical” level of 80% immunization as that required for herd immunity?
While everyone needs to get vaccinated for their own benefit (to potentially save their own lives!), no one really knows what level of immunity is needed to provide herd protection against COVID-19. However, what we’re observing right now is a marked decrease in infections across the country that appears to be related to current levels of vaccination. Supporting the idea that this is the result of vaccination is hard data from Israel (which I have previously presented) showing that herd immunity appears to happen with COVID-19 when over 50% of the population is fully immunized.
This may be why President Biden is reducing his vaccination goals for July 4th, New York is opening up early, and people are starting to make summer vacation plans.
So while the NYT does not think “herd immunity will ever be achieved,” most of us are observing that it has already arrived.