How Many More People Need To Be Vaccinated To End The Pandemic?

Yes, the vaccines are here. Al Roker, Hoda Kotb, and Martha Stewart have all started the vaccination process (via People). But there's a reason that only 22,000 people will witness the 2021 Super Bowl live. We're a long way from out of the mud. As of 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 3, the CDC reported that nearly 27.2 million people had been vaccinated at least once. Only 6.4 million have received the two doses necessary to be fully vaccinated against the virus. That's a drop in the water compared to the population of the United States, which the Census Bureau places at around 330 million. 

We don't need to get to 330 million, but we need to get close, according to what Dr. Anthony Fauci toldCNN. Fauci's estimates that we should reach a 70- to 85-percent vaccination rate before we can return to "normalcy." Which means that we've only fully vaccinated about 2.7 percent of the at least 231 million people required to end the pandemic. And, according to the same (rough) math, we'll need to fully vaccinate 224.6 million more for the 2022 Super Bowl to feel like celebrations of Super Bowl's past.

How long will it take to vaccinate 70 to 85 percent of the population?

The New York Times has run the numbers. At the current rate of 1.3 million vaccine doses a day, 70 percent of the United States would be vaccinated by Sept. 14 and 90 percent would be vaccinated by Nov. 25: or, conveniently, Thanksgiving. So yes, you can tentatively go ahead with planning large, celebratory end-of-year holiday parties. Perhaps even a Halloween party is in order. And, if President Biden delivers on his 100-million-vaccines-by-his-100th-day-in-office promise, we may be able to move that timeline up a bit.

Maybe. Because even if the government buys enough vaccines to vaccinate us all, and even if it distributes them efficiently, there's another stumbling block. In December 2020, The New York Times reported on a Kaiser Foundation survey suggesting that up to 39 percent of Americans might "wait to see how the vaccine works out" for others getting vaccinated, before taking the plunge. A January 2021 UC Davis study, meanwhile, confirmed these findings, indicating that 23 percent of Americans are "unsure" about getting the vaccine, and an additional 14.8 percent are "unlikely" to get vaccinated. Should these findings hold, reaching a 75 percent vaccination rate may prove extremely challenging.