With many states making COVID-19 vaccinations available to more people, the COVID-19 data tracker shows more than 124 million vaccines have been administered to Americans. This robust vaccine effort, along with a recent and substantial drop in COVID-19 cases, has incited talks of achieving herd immunity in the near future. It’s also spurred many states to begin easing – and even eliminating – COVID-19 safety restrictions. However, according to top infectious disease experts, this is a mistake because herd immunity may not be as near as we hope. Plus, with several new variants currently circulating the country, many health experts argue the national focus should be on getting as many people vaccinated – as soon as possible – while also continuing to practice social distancing and mask-wearing.
Another surge on the way?
It is true – case numbers have leveled off from their previous highs. But before we declare victory, it’s important to note that this kind of plateau has been used to accurately predict surges in the past. Additionally, the highly contagious B.1.1.7 variant is well on its way to becoming the dominant strain in the U.S. by early April. Consider huge spring break crowds in Florida (and other Gulf Coast states) and pandemic-era highs for domestic air travel, and the inconvenient truth is that the United States may be on the verge of a fourth COVID-19 surge.
Americans are getting vaccinated
It’s not all doom and gloom, as vaccination efforts have picked up quite a bit. According to CDC data, about 41 million Americans are fully vaccinated, with 66% of people 65 and older having had at least one vaccine dose. And more good news, thanks to an uptick in production, the U.S. should soon have plenty of vaccines – especially in the wake of the federal government’s new COVID-19 vaccination goal of administering 200 million vaccines within the administration’s first 100 days in office.
However, from vaccine hesitancy, to the spread of disinformation, and limited access due to unequal vaccine distribution, plenty of challenges remain.
What does it all mean?
Despite our current vaccination success, the reality is that as COVID-19 cases keep rising and states keep easing restrictions, there exists the strong possibility that infections could soon outpace our vaccine efforts. This type of scenario would allow variants to spread faster than we can suppress the virus, which would all but ruin our dreams of achieving the herd immunity magic bullet.
“It’s a race of variants versus vaccines,”1 says emergency physician Dr. Leana Wen.
So, what can you do to help prevent the spread of COVID-19? Get vaccinated as soon as you can.
Not sure where to get vaccinated or learn about the vaccine, your local community pharmacist is a great person to ask! Just check out our directory to see if COVID-19 vaccinations – and many other services that can help keep you and your community healthy – are offered at your local pharmacy.