Now that nearly half of Americans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, many are wondering how long COVID immunity will last for in their communities and across the country. This page provides a comprehensive breakdown of the various factors surrounding long-term COVID immunity and answers key questions, such as:
- Do I have natural immunity after contracting and recovering from COVID-19?
- What is coronavirus herd immunity?
- What are coronavirus antibodies?
- How can my community work toward COVID immunity?
Herd Immunity & COVID-19 : The Basics
To understand herd immunity can be achieved across communities, it’s first important to understand how an individual gains immunity against SARS-CoV-2 and prevention of COVID-19. Antibodies against COVID-19 can be acquired in two ways:
- Through natural immunity. According to the CDC, after recovering from a COVID-19 infection, your body creates antibodies, which can help protect you against reinfection for some period of time after the original infection.
- Through protection achieved with a COVID-19 vaccine. According to the CDC, after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, your body creates a similar immune response as it does when you become infected with COVID-19 naturally.
Herd immunity refers to when a significant portion of a population gains immunity to a virus. Once herd immunity is achieved, the virus has trouble spreading between individuals, and an entire community can be considered immune to COVID-19. According to the CDC, building protection against the virus through a COVID-19 vaccine is safer than through natural infection.
The point where enough individuals are immune to a virus to achieve herd immunity is called the herd immunity threshold. In March of 2021, some experts stated that 70% to 85% of the population would need to be immune to COVID-19 in order to achieve herd immunity. However, now that we are nearing that herd immunity threshold, some experts are concerned about certain unforeseen factors that may prevent us from reaching it in our communities and across the nation.
“Herd immunity is only relevant if we have a transmission-blocking vaccine. If we don’t, then the only way to get herd immunity in the population is to give everyone the vaccine,” says Shweta Bansal, a mathematical biologist at Georgetown University in Washington DC.
Other experts state that variants may be the primary cause for concern. “The vaccine will mean that the virus will start to dissipate on its own,” says epidemiologist Lauren Ancel Meyers, executive director of the University of Texas at Austin COVID-19 Modeling Consortium. But with the introduction of variants, “we may find ourselves months or a year down the road still battling the threat, and having to deal with future surges”.
COVID Herd Immunity Considerations and Limitations
According to the CDC, “Current data suggest that COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in the United States offer protection against most variants currently spreading in the United States.” However, the CDC warns that it is still possible for a variant to cause illness in an individual, even if that individual is fully vaccinated.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, as of July 2021, almost 40M American adults are either unsure about getting a COVID-19 vaccine or do not plan to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccine hesitancy is one reason why the rate of vaccinations against COVID-19 daily has been dropping over time. Click here to view more Household Pulse Survey data tables from different weeks.
Lack of Vaccination Options for Children
According to the CDC, minors can contract and spread COVID-19. Minors also make up a significant percentage of US residents. Therefore, children may need to receive vaccinations before herd immunity can be reached. However, no approved vaccines are available for children under 12, which presents an obstacle towards herd immunity. Click here to learn more about COVID-19 vaccines for children.
COVID Immunity Takeaway
- COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective and provide some protection against COVID-19, according to the CDC.
- According to the CDC, current evidence suggests that natural immunity can help protect against COVID-19 reinfection for 90 days after the initial infection, although experts don’t know for sure how long natural immunity lasts for.
- For an entire community to achieve herd immunity, the herd immunity threshold must be crossed through vaccines, natural immunity, or a combination of both.
- In the past, experts have stated that we are inching closer to herd immunity thanks to the fact that as of July 2021, over 49% of Americans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
- However, with the spread of COVID-19 variants (such as the Delta variant), vaccine hesitancy, and lagging vaccination options for children, more data is needed before we can make any reliable forecasts on when community COVID immunity might be expected.
If you would like to receive your COVID-19 vaccine, click here to find a vaccination center near you.
Curative Inc. and its subsidiary, Curative Management Services LLC, engage with medical entities that provide vaccination services.