A lot of people are getting vaccinated in the United States, millions a day, which is good because we’ll need to have about 230 million of us immunized through vaccination or infected by the coronavirus itself before we can effectively halt transmissions in this country.
That’s what “herd immunity” means.
Make no mistake: There is no other plan. Herd immunity is the best we can hope for, for now, in our quest to retain some sort of normalcy in the era of the coronavirus, which has killed more than half a million Americans in just one year. And even if we hit it — which depends entirely on a few factors — we will avoid shaking hands and keep wearing masks in the airport for years to come.
The hard numbers: As of Tuesday, 74 million Americans had been fully vaccinated; that’s 22.5 percent and climbing. Another 30 million or so have survived COVID-19 and have some immunity, though we don’t know how long it lasts. That leaves another 126 million who need to get it. And we need to do it fast, because these vaccines were made for the coronavirus that dropped in 2019. We’re not even sure how effective they will be against these hot new 2021 coronaviruses that increase their chances against our vaccinations with every transmission.
And we’re not even taking into consideration other countries who are having real struggles with the pandemic as well, and without the same access we have to immunization shots.
We won’t deny that there are some for whom this shot could be deadly — a very small few, not enough to jeopardize our quest for herd immunity: people with allergies, some autoimmune disorders, pregnant women. Even the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which has caused blood clots in six of the 7 million or so who have received it, is safer than most prescription birth control.
Everyone else needs to get the shot, and they need to talk about getting the shot, extoll the virtues of getting the shot, talk their reluctant friends and family members into getting the shot.
To say that vaccines don’t work is to create a self-fulfilling prophecy. And those who abstain are putting much more at risk than their own hides.