The news comes after President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday delivered an address about the ongoing pandemic and accused his soon-to-be predecessor President Donald Trump’s administration for “falling behind” on the vaccine distribution effort. Biden pushed back on claims that he had been “too alarmist” for warning that the country would hit 400,000 deaths before the end of Trump’s term next month as the nation braces for a post-holiday surge of new infections.
Hours after Biden’s rebuke of the Trump administration’s delayed inoculation program, Trump tweeted that he bore little responsibility for the slow pace of vaccine rollout, blaming the states for slip ups.
Operation Warp Speed, the federal effort to roll out doses of coronavirus vaccine, had said that it would deliver vaccinations to 20 million Americans by the end of the year. But an estimate from NBC News on Tuesday revealed that only around 2 million Americans have received the first of two shots.
The news offers a less than rosy picture for how the messy distribution process will be sped up in the coming weeks and months to achieve the level of immunity throughout the population that will be necessary for any kind of return to relative normalcy to daily activity.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, who previously suggested that once 60 to 70 percent of the population has immunity to COVID-19 the pandemic could come to an end, has recently begun to incrementally raise that estimate. In an interview with the New York Times published last week, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said that his herd-immunity estimate hovers “between 70 to 90 percent.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not released a figure for what kind of immunity will be necessary to end the pandemic.
But the higher figure of 90 percent and above represents the contagiousness of infection diseases like the measles, Fauci told the Times.
“I would bet my house that COVID isn’t as contagious as measles,” Fauci said, adding that the higher figure would be discouraging to Americans when he is not sure there will be enough voluntary acceptance of vaccines to reach that goal.