KEY POINTS

  • The head of a UK vaccine watchdog said achieving herd immunity amid the spread of the Delta variant is "not a possibility"
  • He argued that the novel coronavirus should not be compared to measles
  • The U.S. has fully vaccinated only 50.3% of the total population: CDC

A vaccine expert from the United Kingdom on Tuesday dismissed overall herd immunity against COVID-19 as “mythical.” 

Prof. Sir Andrew Pollard, head of the Oxford Vaccine Group and chair of the Joint Committee on vaccination and Immunization (JCVI), said that achieving herd immunity amid the rapid spread of the highly contagious Delta variant is “not a possibility.” 

“I think we are in a situation here with this current variant where herd immunity is not a possibility because it still infects vaccinated individuals,” he said, according to Politico. “I suspect that what the virus will throw up next is a variant which is perhaps even better at transmitting in vaccinated populations. So that’s an even more of a reason not to be making a vaccine program around herd immunity.” 

The professor also argued that the novel coronavirus pandemic should not be compared to measles, which was controlled through a universal vaccination program.  

“The problem with this virus is [it is] not measles. If 95% of people were vaccinated against measles, the virus cannot transmit in the population,” he told the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) Tuesday, as reported by The Guardian.

The concept of herd immunity relies on a large majority of a population to gain protection from a virus, either through vaccination or a previous infection. 

In the United States, the Biden administration has set the goal of vaccinating at least 70% of the country’s adult population to achieve herd immunity by giving enough people antibodies against the novel coronavirus. 

As of Tuesday, only 50.3% of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, while only 58.9% of Americans have received at least one dose, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As of Sunday, the U.S. reported an average of 660,000 vaccinations per day. Health officials have also administered 432,000 first doses daily over the past seven days. However, many states with the lowest vaccination rates are still reporting outbreaks, including Mississippi at 50% of adults, Wyoming at 52.2% and Louisiana at 53.6%, according to CNBC.

COVID-19 has so far infected 36,050,630 people and claimed 618,108 lives in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University. 

With the Novavax deal, the EU has secured access to up to 4.57 billion doses of Covid vaccines from seven different suppliers. With the Novavax deal, the EU has secured access to up to 4.57 billion doses of Covid vaccines from seven different suppliers. Photo: AFP / Saeed KHAN