A new Gallup poll released Monday showed that among Americans who were not yet vaccinated against the coronavirus, more than three in four said they were unlikely to get vaccinated in the future.
Around 60% of Americans are now fully vaccinated against the virus, but 78% of those who are not vaccinated said they are unlikely to get the vaccine.
Around half of the unvaccinated, or 51%, said they were “not likely at all” to change their minds about vaccination.
Overall, 24% of poll respondents said they do not plan to be vaccinated. Considering that no vaccines for children under 12 have yet been approved in the U.S., it will be impossible to get to what scientists consider herd immunity for some time through vaccination alone.
Can we get to herd immunity?
Scientists have been hand-wringing over whether it is possible to get to herd immunity with current vaccine hesitancy rates, but vaccination is only one part of the herd immunity picture.
While the New York Times is running articles saying herd immunity is “unlikely” or “impossible, the LA Times conceded last month that “we may already be there.”
Business columnist Michael Hiltzik noted that nearly all U.S. states now have declining case numbers and fewer deaths from COVID, and that it may soon be time to stop the constant testing and reporting that has gone on for more than a year.
COVID isn’t going to disappear any time soon, Hiltzik said, but there’s a difference between herd immunity and complete eradication of a disease.
According to Dr. Monica Gandhi, a professor of medicine at UC San Francisco, only smallpox has ever been completely eradicated as a disease. “We live very comfortably with other viruses for which we’ve achieved herd immunity, it’s just that the public doesn’t know it,” Ghandi said.
COVID lives on
“The non-immune are protected by not seeing the virus,” Gandhi told Hiltzik. “It’s just not circulating at high rates. It will keep on going down and down in the population.”
“Getting the virus to a tolerable level where we don’t have to alter our way of life is probably very achievable,” Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health epidemiologist Dr. David Dowdy said in the same article. “We’re already at a stage in the U.S. where we’re seeing case counts go down.”
We will have success against the virus, Ghandi and Dowdy agree, when it reaches low enough levels that it becomes just another virus doctors can identify and treat, like the flu. And they think we are almost there, even if some of the population doesn’t want to get the vaccine.