Vaccine Hesitancy May Soon Start to Impede Return to Normal

April 21, 2021
Frank Diamond

Kaiser Family Foundation: “Federal, state, and local officials, and the private sector, will face the challenge of having to figure out how to increase willingness to get vaccinated among those still on the fence.”

COVID-19 vaccination continues to occupy a lot of real estate in almost everybody’s heads these days. As Infection Control Today® reported, 25.7% of the US population is fully vaccinated; 64.9% of the population aged 65 years or older has been fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Andy Slavitt, a senior White House pandemic advisor, recently noted that “lack of supply, lack of locations, confusing rules are all in the past.” Slavitt said that 25.7% of the US population is fully vaccinated while 64.9% of persons 65 or older have been fully vaccinated. So, we’re well on our way to the herd immunity that health experts say we need to achieve to get our old, normal lives back, right?

Well, no, actually, according to an analysis released yesterday by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). The headline in that analysis asks: “Supply vs Demand: When Will the Scales Tip on COVID-19 Vaccination in the U.S?” Soon, says the accompanying analysis, in which the authors say that it could happen within 2 to 4 weeks—when there will be more vaccine on hand than people who want to get vaccinated—and that won’t be a good thing because we won’t be at herd immunity.

“Once this happens, efforts to encourage vaccination will become much harder, presenting a challenge to reaching the levels of herd immunity that are expected to be needed,” the KFF analysis states.

Vaccine hesitancy remains a concern and that hesitancy doesn’t only exist in the public; many health care workers need to be convinced of the importance of vaccination, as well.

The KFF analysis states: “Federal, state, and local officials, and the private sector, will face the challenge of having to figure out how to increase willingness to get vaccinated among those still on the fence, and ideally among the one-fifth of adults who have consistently said they would not get vaccinated or would do so only if required.”

But what level of immunization is needed to reach herd immunity?

Anthony Fauci, MD, the head of the CDC’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, drew criticism from some quarters when he admitted that he had been slowly moving the goalposts on that question, partly from following the science and partly because he didn’t think the public could handle the truth. At first, according to the New York Times, Fauci said that it would take about 70% immunity and now he says that it would be more in the area of 90%. Not only that, but Fauci told CNN last month that children would need to be vaccinated in order for the US to reach herd immunity. 

The KFF analysis indicates that vaccine hesitancy among the public diminishes, but that diminishment needs to continue and continue at a greater pace. “If about a third of the ‘wait and see’ group moves into the enthusiasm group (comparable to what happened last month), the ‘outer edge’ of vaccine enthusiasm would increase to 170 million people (or 66% of all adults); at the current rate of vaccine doses administered per day, it would take 22 days to reach the point at which supply outstrips demand,” the analysis states. “If half of the “wait and see” group move, it would take about 28 days to reach the tipping point.”