When will everyone be vaccinated for COVID-19 and reach herd immunity?

On March 25, President Joe Biden set a goal of 200 million shots administered in his first 100 days. The United States has now reached that goal with time to spare.

Before Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20, about 20 million doses had been administered.

The White House says the U.S. will have enough vaccine supply to cover every American adult by the end of May, although it will take longer to administer those vaccines. That’s about 500 million doses, depending on what share of the vaccines require two shots.

As of April 19, all adults in the U.S. are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine

How quickly are vaccine doses being administered?

Can coronavirus vaccines be given any faster?

The pace of vaccine administration has greatly increased since the first vaccines were given. Here are some factors contributing to that growth:

More vaccinators and vaccination sites: Military personnel are deploying to vaccination sites to help administer shots, and the pool of people qualified to give vaccines has been expanded to include paramedics, physician assistants, and dentists, among others.

“It’s not enough to have a vaccine supply,” Biden said. “We need vaccinators, people who put the shots in people’s arms.”

As of March 11, the federal government planned to double the number of federally run mass vaccination sites, double the number of pharmacies at which the vaccine is available, and increase the number of community health centers directly receiving vaccines from 200 to 950. The White House says options to find vaccines nearby, both online and by phone, will launch by May 1 to make it easier for individuals to make vaccine appointments. Technology support will be offered to improve states’ websites.

Increased supply: Pfizer and Moderna are delivering 100 million doses a month earlier than expected, in May instead of June.

A one-dose vaccine: The FDA authorized the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on Feb. 27. Unlike the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, the J&J vaccine requires only one dose and can be stored at the temperature of a normal refrigerator for up to three months. This eases the challenges of distribution as well as the manufacturing and administration burden, as only half the number of doses are required to vaccinate the same number of people.

In recent days, the pace of vaccine administration has slowed.

On April 13 the FDA and CDC recommended pausing use of the J&J vaccine “out of an abundance of caution” due to reports of a rare combination of blood clots and low platelet counts in some people who received the vaccine. Out of the more than eight million people who received the J&J vaccine, 15 were confirmed to have developed this side effect

All states followed the CDC and FDA recommendation to pause use of the J&J vaccine. J&J vaccines accounted for about one-fifth of first doses administered in the week leading up to the pause, and the vaccine’s sudden absence contributed to a decline in the pace of vaccinations.

After investigating cases of the side effect, the CDC’s expert committee on vaccines voted to recommend that the J&J vaccine continue to be used. The CDC and FDA lifted the recommended pause on April 23, and administration of Johnson & Johnson shots has resumed in many states. 

The rare combination of blood clots and low platelet counts associated with the J&J vaccine has not been reported in association with Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, which use a different vaccine technology.

When will we reach herd immunity?

Though there could be enough vaccine by May for every American, administering all those shots will take longer because of logistical and administrative challenges.

How many people need to be vaccinated to reach herd immunity? “I think the real range is somewhere between 70 to 90 percent,” Fauci told The New York Times. At the current pace of vaccine administration, it will take a couple more months to reach that range. However, the pace has been increasing. 

Based on the current pace, when will we have given out enough shots?

When will the pandemic end?

When will things go back to normal? Biden suggested that by July 4, small groups will be able to get together again, and that the U.S. would be “approaching normalcy by the end of this year.”

“God willing, this Christmas will be different than the last,” Biden said while visiting a Pfizer manufacturing site. “But I can’t make that commitment to you.”

Both Biden and Fauci have emphasized that there are many uncertainties that could impact how quickly things improve. New strains of the virus could emerge or become dominant, reducing efficacy of the vaccines. Production or administration rates could stall or change for various reasons – the winter storm in Texas, for example, slowed vaccinations there considerably.

“But we’re doing everything the science has indicated we should do,” Biden said, “and people are stepping up to get everything done that has to be done.”

Speaking on CNN about a return to normalcy, Fauci said, “it may not be precisely the way it was in November 2019. But it’ll be much, much better than where we are now.”

Read more: What to expect before and after getting a COVID-19 vaccine

Note: Historical numbers may change over time as data is reported to the CDC.

Contributing: Shawn Sullivan and Javier Zarracina

Clarification: We clarified the Biden administration’s timeline for its goal of 100 million doses in the first section of this article on March 19.

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