- The first coronavirus vaccines have shown great promise in late-stage clinical trials and will soon be approved by the FDA for emergency use.
- Citi analysts expect developed economies to reach herd immunity through vaccination campaigns by the fourth quarter of 2021.
- Various factors could still impact the speed at which herd immunity is achieved, including supply issues and the people's resistance to vaccines in general.
Not counting the Russian and Chinese vaccines that aren't going to be widely available in most western markets, the world has three coronavirus vaccines that have shown great results in Phase 3 trials. The mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna each have an efficacy rating of 95%. In comparison, the more traditional vaccine candidate from AstraZeneca has an average efficacy of 70%, although researchers already know how to bring it up to 90%. Emergency vaccination campaigns will start in the US and Europe as soon as December, with at-risk categories of people getting preferential treatment. Healthcare workers and other groups of essential personnel, as well as the elderly, will have priority over the general public until there's enough vaccine supply to go around.
The goal of vaccination campaigns will initially be to prevent people from getting infected or experiencing a severe form of COVID-19 that can lead to death. Once more supply is available, public vaccination campaigns will help communities reach herd immunity and return to normal life. That won't happen overnight, however. Estimates say that it will take quite some time for developed markets to reach herd immunity, and developing nations will need even longer. That's if other problems don't cause further delays.
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Analysts from Citi Research say that herd immunity will not be achieved until late 2021, CNBC reports. Herd immunity is the phenomenon where an infection stops spreading inside a population because a large enough percentage of the community is immune to the illness. Herd immunity can be reached via direct exposure to the virus, a strategy that Sweden proved to be quite costly in terms of lives lost. Vaccines will hasten herd immunity, as more people will get protection against the novel coronavirus virus without contracting the potentially deadly illness.
“In general, vaccine coverage should reach at least 70% to form some herd immunity,” Citi analysts said.
The experts said that developed economies have already secured vaccine preorders and will be the first to experience the economic benefits of herd immunity. They estimate that COVID-19 vaccinations could raise the global GDP growth by 0.7% in 2021 and 3% in 2022. That's when analysts expect economic activity to return to normal.
Citi assumed that all three vaccines that showed great results in Phase 3 testing would receive emergency approvals by the end of January. Developed markets have already secured 85% of total COVID-19 vaccine capacity. The analysts also said that the US, UK, Japan, Canada, Australia, and the European Union block have ordered supplies that exceed their populations. These countries could start wider vaccine distribution in the second or third quarter and reach herd immunity in the final quarter of 2021.
“Most people, who seek vaccination, may be vaccinated at least by the end of 2021,” the analysts said.
Emerging economies will need to wait longer for vaccine distribution, and third-world countries might have to wait until the end of 2022 or even later. Those countries might have to rely on the Covax initiative, the UN's program to subsidize COVID-19 vaccines for low-income countries. Emerging markets will see a smaller economic benefit from vaccines.
But Citi analysts also pointed out a few issues that could alter the forecast. The efficacy of vaccines, the COVID-19 reproduction rate, and the speed of vaccine mass production are all on the list. So is people's willingness to get vaccinated. The latter might be a critical issue that delays herd immunity in some countries like the US, even if they have access to plenty of vaccines.
The bank says that a World Economic Forum survey by Ipsos found in October that 73% of respondents across 15 economies were willing to get vaccinated, a 4% drop compared to three months earlier. “Vaccine acceptance rates of 54% -59% in France, Hungary, Poland, and Russia suggest potential delays in the timing of herd immunity by vaccination in some countries,” the analysts said. If not enough people get the single- or dual-shot regimen, the virus will continue to spread.
Other theoretical factors that might impact herd immunity include the duration of protection, though Citi failed to address that factor in its report. The longer the immunity lasts, the faster herd immunity should be achieved - and there are signs that COVID-19 immunity might last longer than we thought. Secondly, Citi is assuming that just three vaccine frontrunners will be approved soon, but there are also other promising COVID-19 vaccine efforts are underway. Should those be effective, the world would have even more shots on goal for vaccination campaigns.
This article appeared first (in English) on https://bgr.com/2020/11/24/coronavirus-vaccine-herd-immunity-when-return-to-normal/