Herd Immunity For COVID-19 Unlikely Because Not Enough People Would Take Vaccine, UW Study Says

20 percent of Americans would decline a coronavirus vaccine making it impossible to create the herd immunity necessary to stop a pandemic.

Jim Angell

May 15, 20202 min read

Pjimage 59
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

So many Americans would be unlikely to take a vaccine against COVID-19 that one would probably be ineffective in stopping a pandemic, according to a study by University of Wyoming economists.

The latest study conducted by members of the university of Wyoming’s College of Business found that about 20 percent of Americans would probably decline to be immunized against coronavirus even if a vaccine existed, making it impossible to create the “herd immunity” necessary to stop a pandemic.

“The challenge to extinguish the novel coronavirus does not end with finding an effective vaccine,” the study said. “The implementation of the vaccine program will be important.”

The study was conducted by economist Linda Thunstrom, graduate student Madison Ashworth, Professor David Finnoff and Assistant Professor Stephen Newbold. It is based on based on data collected in late March, when 3,133 people were questioned about whether they would vaccinate against the coronavirus if a vaccine was widely available.

The survey found that depending on the scenario, from 13% to 30% of those questioned — an average of 20% — would not, due to general vaccine hesitancy, distrust of vaccine safety and the fact the vaccine would have only recently been developed.

The study said “herd immunity” — the point at which an epidemic is impossible because too few people are subject to infection — can only be achieved if 60% to 80% of the population is immune, either through vaccination or by previous infection.

The study said taking all factors into account, it appears a national vaccine program would probably not result in herd immunity.

Chances for herd immunity could improve, however, if those who have recovered from COVID-19 become immune to the illness. It is not yet known whether that is the case.

The study, the latest in a series of coronavirus-related papers prepared by the group, recommended a national communication program to convince people of the need to be vaccinated, should a vaccine become avaialble.

“This might involve tailored public communication programs to persuade vaccine-hesitant individuals to take the vaccine, or increased efforts to ensure that the vaccine updake level among the remainder of the population is as high as possible, or both,” it said.

Share this article



Jim Angell