What will an eventual COVID-19 vaccine accomplish?

With more than half of the year now lost to COVID-19, I think it’s safe to say that we’re all feeling some sort of pandemic fatigue… and looking forward to living our normal lives again as quickly as possible.

But as I have said here before—and as I’ll likely say again before this national nightmare is over—please don’t pin your hopes on a vaccine as the solution to all of our troubles.

That may not be what anyone wants to hear. But I’m not just being a naysayer here. Believe me, I would be as thrilled as the next person to see this virus disappear as fast as it arrived.

But the unfortunate reality is that such a tidy, single-handed resolution to this crisis is far-fetched, at best—and all but impossible when the chips are really laid down.

Herd immunity is still out of reach

Here’s a brief snapshot of where we stand at this very moment…

The World Health Organization (WHO) currently lists 33 different coronavirus vaccines as being tested on real patients right now, with another 143 vaccine candidates still in the preclinical testing stage.

And it goes without saying that this is an important undertaking. Important enough that the government is shelling out billions of dollars on vaccine doses that may not even turn out to be safe or effective. (Yes—you read that correctly.)

But there are at least some experts out there who are trying to manage the public’s expectations regarding how much we can realistically expect any eventual vaccine to accomplish.

And no, I’m not referring to myself this time. According to one infectious disease and immunology expert at Harvard, a pandemic-ending vaccine isn’t likely at all. Why?

Well for starters, not enough people will even get the vaccine—at least, not at first—to be able to achieve effective community protection, or “herd immunity.”

Here’s what that means…

We’re not even halfway there 

Community protection kicks in when enough people in the community have immunity to an illness—either because they’ve caught it and recovered, or because they’ve been inoculated against it.

This widespread immunity, or “herd immunity”, dramatically lowers the odds that a vulnerable person who doesn’t have immunity—like a newborn, or someone who can’t receive vaccinations for other reasons―will contract the illness and become sick themselves.

Now, let’s talk numbers: In order to achieve herd immunity, somewhere between 70 and 90 percent of the population will typically have to be immune.

The thing is, we don’t have any idea what level of immunity we’re currently looking at with COVID-19. And only time will tell. But in the meantime, we do have some facts to go on…

Studies suggest that somewhere between five to 10 percent of the U.S. population has recovered from a COVID-19 infection. Bear in mind that this is just an average. The actual numbers run the gamut across the country—ranging as low as one percent in San Francisco, up to roughly 20 percent in New York City.

Most of the country is still hovering in the three to five percent range―which, obviously, is still a long way from community protection against this virus. That’s a whole lot of people who would need to get the vaccine all at once in order for us to even begin letting our guard down.

Manufacturing enough vaccines to achieve that would be a feat all by itself… let alone the highly coordinated efforts needed to administer the vaccine to three quarters of the country.

And sadly, that’s not even half the challenge we’re up against here. There’s a lot more to consider—which I’ll discuss in more detail tomorrow. So as always, stay tuned…

P.S. In the meantime, I recommend you continue boosting your immune system in the age of coronavirus—especially as we enter another cold and flu season. Not sure where to begin? Take a look at my Complete Guide to Year-Round Immunity. In it, I outline all of my top immune health recommendations that you, too, can start incorporating—starting today. Click here to learn more!


“Why A Vaccine Won’t Be a Quick Fix for COVID-19.” WebMD, 09/03/2020. (webmd.com/lung/news/20200903/why-a-vaccine-wont-be-a-quick-fix-for-covid-19)