In the most positive interpretation of the data, there could still be millions of people vulnerable to Covid-19 in the United States, because their bodies cannot develop an immune response suddenly or because they are too young. to receive it. (The Emergency Use Clearance from the Food and Drug Administration allows the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine to be used in people 16 years of age and older; the youngest age is 18 for Moderna vaccine.) The math, add in the planned deployment of six months or more, and it becomes clear that the protective behaviors we practice cannot be stopped anytime soon.
And this informal equation doesn’t even take into account the people who opt out – for outright opposition to vaccination, fear of Side effects, or past lack of respect health of minority groups. The most recent survey done by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation shows that 27 percent of American adults remain reluctant to take the vaccine, and this proportion is increasing in minority groups and in rural areas. Distrust can be overcome, says Theresa Chapple-McGruder, a maternal and child epidemiologist working in the Washington, DC area, but the efforts necessary to reassure people have been overlooked until now.
“What I’ve heard from a lot of people is that Wait and watch,“she said.” I think they’re glad they weren’t the first. I didn’t hear anyone really upset that they hadn’t gotten there yet and someone else did – outside. politicians who skip the line.
Calculations of who will be protected and when – and how long it will be before we all are – were further upended just before Christmas by the news that variants coronaviruses have appeared in South Africa and the UK, leading to flight cancellations and port closures to contain the more transmissible version. There is no indication that the variants cannot be contained by vaccines already developed, says Angela Rasmussen, a coronavirus virologist and an affiliate of the Georgetown Center for Global Health Science and Security. “But the same way of preventing transmission of the variant, if it’s more transmissible, is the same way we prevent transmission of all other variants of Covid,” she says. “He takes the same precautions: hide, avoid crowds, no holiday gatherings, etc.”
If this all seems to add up to a 2021 that looks like 2020: yes, that’s what experts are predicting. Despite the commitment of everyone who has participated in social distancing, much of the world is now in worse shape than in the spring, when lockdowns and the wearing of masks first seemed crucial things to do. And vaccines arrive in such a heterogeneous fashion that, for a number of months, people who have been vaccinated will live or work alongside people still at risk. A nurse can be protected when her children are not; an elderly person can be vaccinated but live in a household with around 40 children who are considered low priority. Until enough people have been vaccinated to establish herd immunity, the safest thing to do is to behave as if everyone is vulnerable.
That’s not happening already, says Saskia Popescu, an infectious disease epidemiologist and infection prevention specialist in Arizona, one of the worst-affected states in the United States. “The second the vaccines came out I saw a change in behavior, people think, Well, it’s over, let’s get back to normal ” she says. “This worries me because it will take a long time.”
But there should come a time when we stop being so vulnerable; to which enough people have accepted the vaccine or been infected and recovered, this herd immunity is within reach. What will be difficult is that the whole of the United States will not obtain collective immunity at the same time. The virus peaked in different states at different times, thanks to differences in housing density, age, race, and willingness to practice protective behaviors. His retirement might look like his advance.