GENEVA (AP) – While many countries have launched vaccination campaigns against COVID-19, it is highly unlikely that herd immunity will be achieved this year, the World Health Organization warned Monday.
At a press conference, Dr Sumya Swaminathan, the WHO’s chief scientist, said that it is crucial that countries and their populations maintain strict social distancing and other prevention measures in the near future. In recent weeks, Britain, the United States, France, Canada, Germany, Israel, the Netherlands and others have started vaccinating their citizens against the coronavirus.
“Even as vaccines begin to protect the most vulnerable, we are not going to achieve any level of population immunity or herd immunity in 2021,” Swaminathan said. “Even if it happens in a couple of areas, in a few countries, it is not going to protect people all over the world.”
Scientists normally estimate that a vaccination rate of approximately 70% is necessary for herd immunity to be achieved. But some fear that the extremely infectious nature of COVID-19 may require a significantly higher threshold.
Dr. Bruce Aylward, adviser to the director general of the WHO, indicated that the agency is hopeful that inoculations against the coronavirus could begin this month or in February in some of the poorest countries in the world, and called on the community global to do more to ensure that all countries have access to vaccines.
“We can’t do that alone,” Aylward said, saying the WHO requires the cooperation of vaccine manufacturers, especially to begin immunizing vulnerable populations.
AP journalist Maria Cheng reported from Toronto.
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