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Herd immunity could be within reach this summer

Published: Mar. 11, 2021 at 10:59 AM CST
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(CNN) – As more and more Americans get vaccinated, it’s less likely that COVID-19 will spread.

Health experts believe the United States could hit herd immunity by this summer through vaccination alone.

Herd immunity is the time when a large enough portion of a population becomes immune to the virus, making the spread from person to person unlikely.

“If you look at the planned rollout of the vaccines, we would hopefully get to that point by the end of the summer and the early fall,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease.

Still, according to the latest numbers, we have a ways to go.

Herd immunity thresholds for COVID-19 are only estimates at this point.

But experts generally agree that somewhere between 70% and 85% of the population must be protected to suppress the spread.

Getting there before next winter will be key.

“If we can get to 80% population immunity by the end of the summer, then we won’t see a surge next winter because this is basically a winter respiratory virus and it’ll be back unless we have a significant percentage of the population vaccinated,” said Dr. Paul Offit, the vaccine education center director at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

As the weather gets warmer, that will also help.

“If you look at what happened last summer when 100% of the population was susceptible and we didn’t have a vaccine, still those numbers came down and then surged again in the winter,” Offit said.

In the end, everything hinges on Americans getting their COVID-19 vaccinations.

“If a significant number of people do not get vaccinated then that would delay where we would get to that endpoint,” Fauci said.

At the current pace of about 2 million doses per day, including 100 million doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, 70% of the U.S. population could be fully vaccinated around the end of July and 85-percent by mid-September, according to a CNN analysis.

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