COVID-19 herd immunity unlikely in 2021 warns World Health Organization

Global COVID-19 herd immunity is unlikely to be achieved this year — even as countries race to administer vaccines, the World Health Organization’s chief scientist warned this week.

Dr. Soumya Swaminathan said Monday it’s critical that countries still encourage social distancing and other public health measures for the foreseeable future.

“Even as vaccines start protecting the most vulnerable, we’re not going to achieve any levels of population immunity or herd immunity in 2021,” Swaminathan said at a press conference.

“Even if it happens in a couple of pockets, in a few countries, it’s not going to protect people across the world.”

Experts have estimated that about 70 percent of the people need to be vaccinated to reach herd immunity.

Britain, the US, France, Canada, Germany, Israel and the Netherlands are among the countries that have already launched vaccination programs.

But many developing nations have yet to receive any shots, which were mostly scooped up by wealthier countries.

Dr. Bruce Aylward, an adviser to WHO’s director-general, urged the global community to do more to ensure that poorer nations also receive the vaccine.

“We cannot do that on our own,” Aylward said of the UN agency’s efforts to ensure that more vulnerable regions have access to the shots.

With Post wires

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