The good news: the U.S. is on its way to herd immunity. The bad news: these things are standing in the way of achieving it.
America is well on its way to vaccinating everyone — at least everyone who’s interested in getting inoculated. More than 22% of the U.S. population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, and according to government and health experts, only two things are standing in the way of achieving herd immunity (when a large percentage of the population of a certain area is immune to a specific disease).
Vaccine hesitancy and COVID-19 variants are slowing down the process of returning to normal; a process that’s made worse by restrictions being lifted in different parts of the country, making the world feel like it’s back to normal when it’s not.
“We have a pretty narrow window of opportunity to make clear what the benefits of vaccinations are. We know that these vaccines are really effective at preventing severe disease. They also do substantially reduce your risk in each of these different types of settings, whether it’s going to the restaurant or gym, or seeing family and friends,” emergency physician Leana Wen told CNN.
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While there has been great progress in vaccination rates, according to John Hopkins University data 10 states have reported an increase of 10% or more in their daily average coronavirus cases. People’s increased levels of activity and the new COVID-19 variants in circulation might be the reason behind this spike.
“What the CDC really needs to do at this point is to say for unvaccinated people, here are the activities that are low risk, medium risk and high risk. Probably a lot of things are going to be high risk for unvaccinated people,” Wen said. “Then they need to say for vaccinated individuals, you’re able to do so much more. Nothing is going to be zero risk, but many of these activities that were formally high risk are now low risk. I think that type of benefit of vaccination really needs to be illustrated to people.”
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In order to manage this issue and brave the rest of the pandemic as best as possible, responsible parties need to make it a priority to warn people to be as safe as they can, wearing the appropriate face masks and practicing social distancing when possible. While domestic travel is on the rise, it’s important to remember that we’re not in the clear yet.
While those who’ve been vaccinated may operate under different guidelines, the vast majority of people will have to wait a little bit longer before they can resume their lives normally.