What is safer when the majority of the population is vaccinated?
It should be much safer to move once your community has reached herd immunity – the point where the virus can't easily spread because enough people have been vaccinated or are already suffering from the disease. Many scientists believe that at least 70 percent of people must have acquired immunity in order for the entire community to be protected. However, this number is only an estimate and may need to be revised once we know more about how vaccines affect the ability of the virus to spread.
When a large majority of people are vaccinated, scientists say it is safer to do things in your community, such as: E.g. to eat in indoor restaurants, attend a party or take the bus. Next Christmas families could likely gather in ways they should avoid this year, they said.
It is too early to know exactly when we will reach this threshold. Although federal officials have said the United States should have the resources to vaccinate hundreds of millions of people By summer, many scientists say the timeline is optimistic. Vaccinating everyone could pose logistical challenges and some people have expressed reluctance to vaccinate.
It is likely that some regions have higher vaccination rates than others. Just as some communities have been susceptible to measles due to low vaccination rates in children, outbreaks can occur in areas with low Covid-19 vaccination rates even after the country has reached herd immunity levels as a whole. Knowing this context is crucial for decision making.
Experts also stressed that even if herd immunity is reached, Covid-19 is unlikely to go away immediately. Outbreaks could still be likely, likely in winter.
"Winter will be flu and Covid season," said Andrew Noymer, an epidemiologist studying Covid-19 at the University of California at Irvine. The last things he'll be returning to are international travel and crowded events like concerts – but he reckons he'll do those again at some point. Not only is he waiting for the vaccine, but also for the spread of the virus to decrease sharply and for the hospitals to have more capacity: "I intend to return little by little."
Why do we still need a risk budget after vaccinations?
During the pandemic, experts asked people to imagine a risk budget: if you spend some of that limited supply on riskier behaviors, you have to cut back on other aspects of your life. Vaccines can add to a person's risk budget, Professor Lofgren said. But they don't make the budget infinite: if you're traveling to see friends, you may still want to offset that decision by avoiding indoor restaurants.