January 25, 2021
Colleges shouldn’t anticipate reaching herd immunity levels against the coronavirus anytime soon, especially given the slow rollout of the vaccine, health experts said.
In the meantime, schools should continue employing safety measures — such as mask-wearing, handwashing and social distancing — even if some people on campus are vaccinated.
It’s also key to inform students about what is known and still unknown about the vaccine, as well as provide low-risk ways for them to socially interact, experts said.
Herd immunity occurs when enough people have become immune to a virus, either through vaccination or recovering from an infection, that its spread becomes unlikely. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not yet know what share of people would need protection from the coronavirus to achieve herd immunity or how long such a protection lasts, a CDC spokesperson said in an email to Higher Ed Dive.
Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease official, said last month that the U.S. may return to a “degree of normality” once 70% to 85% of the population is vaccinated. Still, herd immunity levels vary by disease, with some requiring as much as 95% of the population to be vaccinated to reach the threshold.