Widespread herd immunity to COVID-19 will not be achieved in 2021, WHO's top scientist says

by Laura Mize · Jan 12th, 2021 4:18 pm

Last Updated Jan 15th, 2021 at 5:52 am

Even with COVID-19 vaccines available, the world will not see widespread herd immunity to the virus in 2021, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist for the World Health Organization, said Monday.

Swaminathan said achieving herd immunity, where the majority of the population is immune to a virus, will take time.

"Even if it happens [in 2021] in a couple of pockets in a few countries, it's not going to protect people across the world," she said, emphasizing the need for continued protective measures, such as social distancing and mask wearing. "The vaccines are going to come. They are going to go to all countries, but meanwhile we mustn't forget that there are measures that work and... it's really important to remind people, both governments as well as individuals, on the responsibilities and the measures that we continue to need to practice... for the next... well for the rest of this year at least."

There are currently more than 88 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus worldwide, according to the WHO. There have been nearly 2 million deaths.


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