COVID-19 Vaccination is Key to Putting the Pandemic in the Past
March 23, 2021
With nearly everyone now eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccination, it seems as though light may be appearing at the end of the tunnel. We spoke with Keith Armitage, MD, about how we can start getting back to a post-pandemic normal.
Q: What Will It Take To Get Back to Normal?
A: If we can have all adults vaccinated by end of May I think we’ll really start to get back to normal. The CDC has come out with guidelines that vaccinated people can socialize with other vaccinated people without masks. The sooner we can get every adult who’s willing to get a vaccine vaccinated, the sooner we’ll get back to normal.
We don’t know for sure how effective the vaccines are going to be in cutting down transmission. So we know the vaccines prevent deaths, prevent hospitalizations, and are pretty effective in preventing any illness. There’s more and more data that even if you do get an asymptomatic infection with these vaccines you’re much less contagious.
So I think all the news is good and it’s really encouraging if we can get the vaccines out by the end of May we really may be back to normal. We may see restaurants, bars, movie theaters, baseball stadiums, amusement parks opening up, which would be really exciting.
Q: What Will Post-Pandemic Normal Look Like and How Will It Happen?
I think normal is going to a baseball game, normal is air travel, both for business and for pleasure. I think normal is going to restaurants and I think we’ll gradually get back.
Air travel is really picking up across the United States as people are vaccinated and the pandemic goes down. I certainly have sympathy for the hospitality industry and the faster we can get back to normal for those folks to ease their economic pain, the better.
I don’t think we’re going to flip a switch one day. It seems like it’s going to be gradual. We’ve seen in the news recently that, they’re thinking that based on what we know now that the Cleveland Indians can have a 30 percent capacity. That’s the first step. Then maybe they’ll improve that so I think we’ll see gradual changes between herd immunity from natural infection and getting vaccinated. I think we’re going to see the pandemic wane.
Q: Can We Count on Herd Immunity?
I think most experts think that herd immunity is somewhere around 70 percent to 80 percent of the population. And if you think that the actual diagnosed cases under-represent the actual cases by three or four times, perhaps we’ve had 100 million Americans who’ve been infected naturally. That’s still less than 30 percent of our population.
So as we get people vaccinated, we’ll get toward that 70 to 80 percent. I think April is optimistic to think we’ll have enough immunity by then that we’ll really feel like we have the pandemic under control.
You know, cases may go down, but we’re still going to have people who die of COVID-19 who end up in the hospital, or on ventilators, just at a much lower rate. So it’s obviously critical to those people. So until we get enough herd immunity where cases are relatively few and far between, I don’t think we could declare victory.
There’s so much about this pandemic that we don’t know. The idea that we need 80, 70 or 60 percent herd immunity is really based on other diseases and other models and so we have to wait and see. Again, these new variants that may be more contagious, may complicate these models.
I think people should be optimistic, they should be optimistic about the vaccines, they should be optimistic that there is light at the end of the pandemic tunnel.
I think best-case scenario is if between 100 and 140 million Americans have had the virus and we get another 140 million Americans vaccinated, which is not an unrealistic goal, I think we can really start to see the end of the pandemic. Whether that’s April, May, June or July, I think those are reasonable timelines to really see the pandemic start to wane and start to get back to normal.
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