My opinion has changed this week regarding the achievability of herd immunity.

As the vaccines were being distributed, the general thinking was that herd immunity could be achieved when the population of the United States reached around 65%. It was based on the reproduction number of the SARS-CoV-2 virus –

The R naught, the basic reproduction number, was estimated between 1.4 and 2.4. Thus, epidemiologists concluded that around two-thirds of any population must be immune to a virus with an R naught value around 2.0. Two things have occurred since then.

The R naught for the original alpha variant was established at 3.0. This means more than 65% of the population needs immunity. The first thing that messed up the calculations is the Delta variant. The R naught is roughly 8.5 – meaning many more people get infected compared to the alpha variant.

The second thing that happens is being seen almost weekly. The COVID-19 mRNA vaccine from Pfizer weakens rapidly and becomes unable to protect vaccinated people from becoming infected with the coronavirus.

Good News?

I looked at the data a while back and surmised that the true benefit of the mRNA vaccine was the ability to keep people out of the hospital. The Pfizer vaccine is working today at the 90% level, keeping people from severe symptoms requiring hospitalization.

The initial success in clinical trials of mid-to-upper 90 percent effectiveness in repelling coronavirus has significantly waned. However, I see two good aspects to lower protection from infection for fully vaccinated people. The first is that when a fully vaccinated person gets infected with COVID-19, they may never know.

The ability of the vaccine to reduce severe symptoms most likely causes mild-to-moderate symptoms to degrade to asymptomatic or near-asymptomatic. As a result, fully vaccinated people may be infected and never know it. Unfortunately, when they are infected, they can infect others – both vaccinated and unvaccinated.

When the level of infection is asymptomatic, each person is acquiring natural immunity, which boosts their immune system – they have partial immunity from the vaccine and a more potent natural immunity to the virus. In addition, the vaccine replicates a small percentage of the COVID-19 spike protein to help our immune systems recognize the invader quickly and mount an offense against the virus before it can find a home in our bodies.

Natural immunity is acquired when our bodies fight the original (and variants) of the virus and establish a recognition factor for the entire spike configuration sequence rather than a partial indicator from the mRNA vaccine. As a result, we now have fully vaccinated people and naturally acquired immunity after they became infected.

Breakthrough Cases Through August 2021, the numbers of breakthrough cases (those fully vaccinated people who became infected with COVID-19) were less than ten percent. The CDC was not tracking breakthrough cases. Hospitals test for COVID-19 and could report those number of breakthrough patients, but there was no requirement to do so.

I heard a couple of experts talking this past week on a radio show, and it appears that the numbers of breakthrough cases are becoming increasingly important to know and track. So, hopefully, we will see those numbers soon.

As the protective effect of the mRNA vaccine erodes each month, the fully vaccinated are at increased risk of getting infected and infecting others. Is this a big deal? To some, it is not. The survival rate of COVID-19 is around 99%. The risk of hospitalization and death is lower with the vaccine. Those unvaccinated are at higher risk.

Some articles try to downplay the new breakthrough infections as minuscule because the new case numbers are being compared to all cases, not just those infected within the past week or month. However, the numbers of COVID-19 breakthrough cases have been climbing rapidly since mid-August.


A couple of thoughts immediately roll around in my brain. First, fully vaccinated people are joining the pool of survivors of coronavirus – adding more and more naturally acquired immunity to the overall pool. Second, will every fully vaccinated person acquire COVID-19? No, probably not.

We are doing an excellent job of protecting the most vulnerable. Many of them are restricted from social interaction with others – the most likely threat to their health. However, their caregivers might think they are safe because they have been vaccinated and cannot be a carrier of the virus. They are wrong. A good facility should be testing all caregivers often (daily, hopefully), given the potency of the Delta variant.

So, we have the ten percent of unvaccinated who had the virus and survived with naturally acquired immunity. On the other hand, we have 65% or so of the country vaccinated (with at least one dose) – That means there is some level of nearly 75% of the U.S. population with the ability to reject the virus. For the COVID-19 alpha variant, this would be more than enough. For the Delta variant, we need more people in the immune protective pool.

Yes, more people (both unvaccinated and vaccinated) will continue to become infected with coronavirus over the next several months. The people vaccinated earlier this year have half the protection. Boosters are not given to everyone, so the chance of increasing the vaccine’s effectiveness across the board is not going to happen. Eventually, the vaccine’s protection will bottom out at some number – I have no idea, nor can I speculate.

Recent studies from Qatar and Israel (see the third link in this article for more details) report a rapid decrease in the vaccine’s protective powers against infection after four months. Some reports the vaccine’s effectiveness at 20%. Does this mean a person with a booster shot buys another four months of protection? That is what I see.

The first two doses lose protective potency from infection after four months. Another dose (exact same composition) does not guarantee much more than the original protection.

The second thought is that we will have to live (without fear, but educated and prepared) with the pandemic virus for many months to come. Several countries have concluded it is better to live with the virus than to continue the fight for zero infections.

Norway, Ireland, New Zealand, and Singapore are currently revising and removing many restrictions on their citizens. We see many states giving more freedoms from COVID-19 restrictions than other states.

Is there any reason that a better approach might be to continue vaccinations to reduce the severity of the virus to keep our healthcare systems stable? Unfortunately, continuing to tell us that the vaccines will prevent infection is no longer valid. Too many reports worldwide support the monthly degradation of the mRNA vaccine’s ability to thwart the virus and prevent infection.

Vaccinated people are the biggest threat today to infecting others (both vaccinated and unvaccinated). In addition, the lifestyle changes incorporated when people have two doses of a vaccine and are told they have no worries opens them to more social interaction and increased risk of catching and infecting others.

The current personal protective options will not matter much when people freely interact, thinking they are safe when they can cause future infections. However, the little bit of freedom is hard to take away, especially when not many people know that mRNA vaccines are losing their ability to fight the virus. Is it possible to achieve herd immunity in six months? Stranger things have happened before!

Live Longer & Enjoy Life! – Red O’Laughlin –


2 Responses

  1. A truly excellent assessment of the current COVID situation. It is beyond belief that the CDC is not tracking breakthrough infections and it leads one to assume that their mandates are as much political as scientific. The reason for the push by the government, for the vaccine as the only solution, is that they know that the vaccine does not protect us from getting COVID but does do an excellent job of keeping us out of the hospital. Sadly what this means is that vaccinated people may not be in hospitals but certainly are spreading the disease unknowingly and as such the government wants everyone vaccinated. The bottom line is that natural immunity, in the long run, may be the best protection along with the vaccine but the government will not acknowledge that until the strain on the hospital system is diminished through 100% vaccinations. While the vaccine is indeed a miracle lifesaver, it does not stop the spread and that was never conveyed to the public – thus we continue to wear masks and take all precautions as vaccinated individuals.

    1. I find it interesting that no counter opinions are tolerated regarding vaccines. That is a hint to me that something is not right. Evidence is evidence – present it and let us sort it out. This can become an ugly mess in a short time as more data becomes available. When a vaccine’s ability to thwart infection wanes, what makes me think that the vaccine’s ability to prevent hospitalizations is right around the corner? We will know shortly. Thanks for your kind comments.

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