President Biden on Monday declined to say when he thinks the U.S. will reach “herd immunity” to the coronavirus but predicted “we’ll be in a very different position” by the end of the summer.
Pressed to highlight a point on the calendar, Mr. Biden characterized the effort as a rolling push to get as many people immunized as possible.
“There’s a debate about what constitutes herd immunity, is it 70%, 68%, 81%?” Mr. Biden said during a trip to Virginia. “The point is right now every single person 16 years or older doesn’t have to wait in line. Just show up and get a vaccination now. I plead with everyone to get vaccinated now, please.”
As it stands, about 45% of the U.S. population has received at least one dose of the vaccine and nearly a third is fully vaccinated, indicating there is a way to go to reach 70%-90% that’s needed to stamp out the virus.
Disease experts say herd immunity is an elusive, rolling concept so the U.S. should focus on reaching a kind of safety threshold in which the virus becomes less deadly as vulnerable people are vaccinated and young people get the shots to decrease transmission.
Scientists envision a situation in which the virus flares from time to time but is a manageable problem for hospitals.
The president highlighted progress in the rollout, citing the fact that eight in 10 seniors are partially vaccinated with one dose and two-thirds are fully vaccinated.
“Mobile units going out. It’s getting better and better and better,” he said.
The virus situation is gradually improving alongside the vaccine push, with the rolling average of cases dipping below 5,000 per day again.
However, administration officials want to see widespread vaccination to stave off big outbreaks in the fall or prevent the virus from mutating in unprotected persons. The fear is the virus could evolve to the point where it eludes existing vaccines.