TAMPA, Fla. — It’s a race against time, reaching herd immunity to the coronavirus through a vaccine as soon as possible, as new strains continue to emerge and transmission rates reach all-time highs.
Earlier this week, President Joe Biden announced efforts to ramp up vaccinations to 1.5 million a day, but is it enough?
Dr. Michael Teng, an Associate Professor at USF Health says no, “It should be a floor. It should be the minimum that you do in a day,” said Dr. Teng.
All it takes is simple math. There are over 330 million people in the United States.
“Herd immunity, we think, is 75-80 percent of the population,” said Dr. Teng.
So achieving immunity at that level is going to require vaccination of nearly 250 million people, as soon as possible.
“Most of our vaccines are two-dose vaccines… so that’s 500 million doses,” said Dr. Teng.
As we set our sights toward ending the pandemic in 2021, Dr. Teng says we’re going to have to shoot much higher.
“3-5 million [doses] would be much preferable,” said Dr. Teng.
And time is of the essence. As new variants continue to emerge, each one more transmissible than the last, efforts to stop the spread get more difficult.
“What we want to do is get ahead of those to make sure that we are both knocking down transmission with the tools we currently have, which is the public health measures of mask-wearing, physical distancing, staying out of crowds, hand sanitation; but then ramping up vaccinations so we get people covered quicker,” said Dr. Teng.
So far, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are showing promise, even against the new mutations, but it’s like playing with fire.
Dr. Teng warns that we need a national vaccination plan to help the individual states out when it comes to administering doses.
“I.T. help, to make sure that our websites don’t crash when we try to make appointments, or more transparency when we talk about them telling the states 3-4 weeks in advance how many vaccine doses they can expect,” said Dr. Teng.
If we can achieve the lofty efforts, he believes herd immunity by Fall 2021 is attainable.