How great to report potentially great news about the CCP Virus pandemic! According to numbers recently put out by seemingly serious people who study diseases and their spread, herd immunity – AKA, The Promised Land or The Other Side – may be tantalizingly close. Like five weeks away close.
“A situation in which a sufficient proportion of a population is immune to an infectious disease (through vaccination and/or prior illness) to make its spread from person to person unlikely. Even individuals not vaccinated (such as newborns and those with chronic illnesses) are offered some protection because the disease has little opportunity to spread within the community. Also known as herd immunity.”
And herd immunity is important for more than pure public health reasons. Although the professionals still disagree on many of the specifics (including on exact herd immunity threshholds for a novel virus), they do agree that the greater to percentage of those immune, the closer society and the economy can move to their pre-virus normals.
Even so, the recent data support considerable optimism. For example, let’s say that if 70 percent of Americans become immune, the normality return can greatly accelerate. That 70 percent figure matters because it’s been used by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the longtime head of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and President Biden’s chief medical adviser. And let’s bear in mind that the total U.S. population now is estimated by the Census Bureau at 330.23 million.
We start with a solid figure – the number of Americans who have been fully vaccinated. As of today, the CDC says it was 94.77 million as of yesterday. (Here’s the home page for the agency’s “Data Tracker.”) As for reported virus cases, the same agency says they total 31.85 million as of yesterday. Take away the nearly 569,000 fatalities (a slightly less solid number because of differences across the nation in defining virus-caused deaths, among other problems), that makes 31.08 million Americans who have been reported infected and have survived.
Now we get more speculative. Because so many of those infected have displayed no symptoms, it’s clear that the number of Americans who have actually been infected and survived is much higher. How much higher? One recent study pegged the figure at 71 million – but that was in February, when reported infections stood at 26.7 million. Let’s assume that the 71 million figure is reasonable, and also that the number of total infections as of yesterday remains 2.66 times higher than the number of reported infections – just as in February. If true, 82.67 million Americans have caught the virus and survived.
Add this number to the total of fully vaccinated Americans, and you get 177.44 million who are genuinely immune. That number in turn represents 53.73 percent of the country’s population. And it’s not all that far from the 70 percent herd immunity figure.
How soon can it be expected? According to the CDC, the number of fully vaccinated Americans is increasing daily by a seven-day average of 1.38 million as of April 20 (the latest figured). So if that rate holds, even if 82.67 million figure for Americans who have become naturally immune stays exactly the same, getting from the 177.44 million total number of immune Americans to the roughly 231 million needed to reach the 70 percent herd immunity figure would take just under 39 days. That is, herd immunity would arrive in very early June.
But because the number of naturally immune Americans will surely increase, rather than staying the same, herd immunity would surely come even sooner.
The 70 percent herd immunity figure, however, isn’t the only one suggested by Fauci and other specialists. As per the above linked CNN post, he’s also used 85 percent. That target would require a total immune population of 280.70 million, meaning that the United States currently has 103.26 million to go. If the numbers of those fully vaccinated keep growing at 1.38 million per day, and the number of those naturally immune or recovered stays at 82.67 million (which, again, it won’t), then 85 percent herd immunity is about 75 days away – meaning that it would arrive around mid-July.
It’s entirely possible that vaccine resistance could slow the above rate of vaccinations (it’s been falling since early April, the CDC data show), and therefore herd immunity’s attainment. But ironically, one of the biggest wild cards may be Fauci himself. As reported here, he admits that since the pandemic’s early days, he “had slowly but deliberately been moving the [herd immunity] goal posts [higher]. He is doing so, he said, partly based on new science, and partly on his gut feeling that the country is finally ready to hear what he really thinks.”
Indeed, during that interview, which took place in late December, Fauci said that the real herd immunity goal may be close to 90 percent. That would mean that just under 120 million more Americans would need to become immune somehow. Using the above (again, very conservative) methodology would push back herd immunity arrival to just under three months from now, or late July.
Of course, the bad news is that Fauci could persuade President Biden and the rest of America’s political leaders that the herd immunity number should be raised still higher. The good news is that even he can’t move it past 100 percent – can he?