Biden says US Covid-19 immunity unlikely before end of summer

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) – US President Joe Biden said it’s unlikely the United States will reach herd immunity for the coronavirus before the end of the summer due to a shortfall in vaccine availability.

“The idea that this can be done and we can get to herd immunity much before the end of this summer is very difficult,” Mr Biden said in an interview with CBS News that aired on Sunday (Feb 7).

Herd immunity means enough people become resistant to the disease that its spread becomes unlikely. That provides protection to the entire community, including people who aren’t individually immune, according to Harvard University. It is typically achieved through vaccination.

In the US, logistical delays and vaccine shortages have meant only a small fraction of the population has received shots since two different vaccines became available in December.

“Look, it was one thing if we had enough vaccine, which we don’t. So we’re pushing as hard as we can to get more vaccine manufactured,” he said.

So far, 40.5 million doses have been administered in the US, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker.

Mr Biden also said his administration may take the National Football League up on an offer to make its stadiums available as mass vaccination sites. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell made the offer in a letter last week.

“I tell my team they’re available and I believe we’ll use them,” Mr Biden said in the interview, which was taped at the White House on Friday.

Mr Biden blamed the Trump administration for leaving the US in a “more dire” situation than expected with vaccine supplies.

“We thought they had indicated there was a lot more vaccine available,” he said. “And that didn’t turn out to be the case. So that’s why we’ve ramped up every way we can.”

Earlier, Dr Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious disease specialist, said on NBC that the US “could have contracted a little bit more aggressively with the companies to get more doses” at the outset.

Dr Fauci predicted better availability for the shots starting this month.

Mr Biden also said he expects the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will provide guidance for reopening schools as early as Wednesday.

“It’s time for schools to reopen safely,” Mr Biden said. “Our CDC commissioner is going to be coming out with science-based judgment, I think as early as Wednesday, as to lay out what the minimum requirements are,” he said.

Teachers’ unions have raised objections to reopening schools in some localities, citing high community transmission and a lack of sufficient precautions taken to prevent spread in classrooms.

 “You have to have fewer people in the classroom. You have to have ventilation systems that have been reworked,” Mr Biden said.

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