How soon before return to a normal life?

Many authorities tell us that we are extremely close to achieving herd immunity from COVID-19. It will happen this year. All we need is at least 65% of the American population to be vaccinated. I have read estimates from the end of April through August. My forecast is still September.

Dr. Fauci’s Estimates The most visible health authority in the United States has changed his predictions of achieving herd immunity almost weekly. On December 10th, he forecast the end of 2021, then a week later, he told us by mid-Fall of 2021, and less than ten days later, he revamped it to the Summer of 2021. Several times in January of 2021, Dr. Fauci estimated the Fall of 2021.

By mid-February, his estimate had changed to Christmas of 2021, and that was revised again within a week to guestimate the end of 2021. Dr. Fauci’s latest guesses were given to us on March 4th, predicting that in Autumn 2021, we would attain herd immunity. Less than a week later, his estimate was revised to September 2021. Five days after that, his estimate is now July 4th, 2021.

Here is a man with access to more data about COVID-19 than almost anyone else in the United States, and his estimates to reach 65% vaccination levels are still changing.

The Naysayers! Some articles I read tell me that we will never achieve herd immunity for coronavirus. One authority, Youyang Gu, tells us that vaccine hesitancy, new coronavirus variants, and delayed clinical trials of those under 18 years of age will not allow the United States to meet the 65% threshold to gain herd immunity.

Yes, many hesitant people are not jumping at the opportunity to get the vaccine. I am one of them. mRNA vaccines are new technology. The latest data shows at least 80% effectiveness of the vaccine after one dose and 90% after two doses. I will not argue that those are good numbers, mainly since those numbers were derived from a high-risk group of first-line healthcare workers.

Vaccination Status Ninety-five million Americans have had one vaccine dose, and over 50 million have had two doses. That equates to 28.6% and 15.8%, respectively. Add another 10% for those people who contracted the virus and have innate immunity.

By the end of March, nearly 30% of Americans can be considered wholly protected – the people having contracted the disease and those receiving two doses of the coronavirus vaccine. That is nearly at the half-way point within three months of the start of 2021.

Vaccinations are exceeding a million people daily. Another hundred days should equal another one hundred million people vaccinated. That one-hundred million newly vaccinated by mid-July added to 95 million already vaccinated comes close to two-hundred million people protected. Another thirty million people (another month at one million vaccines daily) and the United States will have reached the line in the sand of two-thirds of Americans vaccinated.

Currently, nearly 75% of older adults have received one dose, and 50% have received two doses. From a demographic perspective, they are almost in the herd immunity technical definition. However, they are not the ones who interact with everyone daily. They are, however, more protected in communities because of their higher risk of catching the virus.

Variants Viruses mutate. Vaccines are developed to combat a specific strain of a virus. When a virus changes enough that it is not recognizable by the immune system, the people get sick again.

Can the SARS-CoV-2 virus mutate to become more virulent? It has recently with the deletion of two amino groups (H69 & V70) in the spike. The infectivity of the virus doubled with this mutation. Some mutations make the virus worse, others produce a weaker virus, and most leave the virus unchanged.

Will the virus change enough before the Fall to render herd immunity irrelevant? Probably not. Can the virus change next year and become a serious health concern? Possibly. Time will tell. Vaccines are not designed to handle profound changes in geometrical structure. A significant change in viral structure might make a vaccine’s effectiveness decrease from 90% to 70%. It is still effective but not as effective.

Clinical Trials Under 18 Years of Age Adults are tested first to determine the real-world efficacy of a vaccine. Children between the ages of 12 and 18 are the next group to be tested in clinical trials. Pfizer and Moderna have begun clinical trials for children over 12 years of age. The results are not due until late summer.

The FDA takes another month or longer to review those results and approve or issue an emergency use authorization for the vaccine to be used on a new age group. Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca are behind Pfizer, and Moderna is testing in the under 18-year-old group.

Around 25% of Americans are under 21years old. This same group has a one percent death rate from COVID-19. About two percent of this under-21-group were hospitalized for coronavirus. The clinical trials will determine if the dosage amount needs to be reduced or the time between doses requires changing.


Will the United States achieve at least the 65% protection level to enter herd immunity? Yes. Will it happen this year? Yes. Will herd immunity be effective? To be determined.

There are many unknowns. Will a few people become infected in a small locale, and the media goes crazy about an exponential increase in new cases? That is always possible.

The survival rate of COVID-19 is 99% for those people under 65 years of age. What if we need to continue to protect older adults for another six months to be extra cautious? That is likely. We have been doing that for the past year. Will another six or eight months be an imposition?

With the declaration of herd immunity by the appropriate health authorities, I see face masks being required by businesses and not by local and state governments. It will be interesting to see how the infection tracking is done when the highest risk group (over 65) are vaccinated at the 85+% level and isolated from society. The remainder of the public may develop an occasional asymptomatic case that will not be known.

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


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