If COVID-19 Herd Immunity Is 'Not Attainable,' Does It Matter?

The emphasis on a goal that may be impossible to reach reduces the incentive to get vaccinated.


When will COVID-19 herd immunity allow a return to normal life in the United States? Probably never, according to a New York Times story published today. But the Times says widespread immunity, especially among Americans who are most vulnerable to the disease, still can be expected to dramatically reduce hospitalizations and deaths.

Are you wondering what the practical difference is? So am I.

"Reaching 'Herd Immunity' Is Unlikely in the U.S., Experts Now Believe," the Times headline warns. Although "more than half of adults in the United States have been inoculated with at least one dose of a vaccine," health and science writer Apoorva Mandavilli reports, "daily vaccination rates are slipping, and there is widespread consensus among scientists and public health experts that the herd immunity threshold is not attainable—at least not in the foreseeable future, and perhaps not ever."

What is attainable? "Rather than making a long-promised exit," Mandavilli says, "the virus will most likely become a manageable threat that will continue to circulate in the United States for years to come, still causing hospitalizations and deaths but in much smaller numbers." That sounds like a win to me.

The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology says "herd immunity (or community immunity) occurs when a high percentage of the community is immune to a disease (through vaccination and/or prior illness), making the spread of this disease from person to person unlikely." As a result of immunity from vaccination or prior infection, "even individuals not vaccinated (such as newborns and the immunocompromised) are offered some protection because the disease has little opportunity to spread within the community."

The distinction drawn by the Times therefore hinges on exactly how "unlikely" virus transmission becomes and how much protection qualifies as "some." In a "rough guide" to herd immunity published by the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases in 2011, British epidemiologists Paul Fine, Ken Eames, and David Heymann noted that the term "is widely used but carries a variety of meanings." Still, "a common implication of the term is that the risk of infection among susceptible individuals in a population is reduced by the presence and proximity of immune individuals."

A simple definition of herd immunity is based on the formula 11/R0, where R0 (the "basic reproduction number") represents the number of people infected by a typical carrier at the outset of an epidemic. Assuming that immunity is evenly distributed across the population and the R0 is 3, for example, the threshold would be about 67 percent. At that point, Fine et al. say, "incidence of the infection would decline."

According to one estimate, the basic reproduction number for COVID-19 in the United States at the outset of the epidemic was about 4, which implies a herd immunity threshold of about 75 percent. Mandavilli notes that most epidemiologists initially thought the threshold would be somewhere between 60 and 70 percent. But after taking into account new, more contagious coronavirus variants (which raise the basic reproduction number), she says, "experts now calculate the herd immunity threshold to be at least 80 percent." And "if even more contagious variants develop," she adds, "the calculation will have to be revised upward again."

It is hard to say how close the U.S. is to any of those numbers, since some but not all Americans who were infected by the COVID-19 virus (often without realizing it, assuming their symptoms were mild or nonexistent) also have been vaccinated. Data scientist Youyang Gu, whose COVID-19 projections have been influential and unusually accurate, estimated that 53 percent of the population would be immune by May 1, rising to 64 percent by late November. Gu has stopped updating that estimate, and his reasoning is instructive.

"Theoretical herd immunity is unrealistic and should not be the endgame," Gu said on Twitter in late February. "The endgame is the widespread availability of COVID-19 vaccines that virtually eliminates severe illness. And we are just a few months away from reaching that goal."

Even without crossing the threshold emphasized by the Times, the number of active COVID-19 cases in the United States, according to Worldometer's numbers (which include only verified infections), has fallen by 26 percent since late January. During the same period, the seven-day average of daily deaths fell by nearly 80 percent. The seven-day average of newly identified cases has fallen by 80 percent since mid-January. All that happened even as many states were relaxing or removing COVID-19 restrictions such as face mask mandates and occupancy limits.

Those trends suggest it is a mistake to equate controlling the epidemic with reaching herd immunity as traditionally defined by epidemiologists. "People were getting confused and thinking you're never going to get the infections down until you reach this mystical level of herd immunity, whatever that number is," Anthony Fauci, the Biden administration's top COVID-19 adviser, told the Times.

When a quarter of Americans still say they do not plan to get vaccinated, that confusion is not likely to help matters. If people at low risk from COVID-19 assume that returning to normal requires herd immunity, which epidemiologists say is impossible, that only weakens the incentive to get vaccinated.

"When can we return to normal?" Gu asked in February. "Forget about 'herd immunity.' By summer, everybody who wants a vaccine will be able to get one. The vulnerable population will long have been able to receive their shots. Hospitalizations & deaths will be at negligible levels. Normality will happen…with or without herd immunity."

NEXT: Libertarian Jeff Hewitt Jumps Into California Governor Recall Race

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  1. >>>reduces the incentive to get vaccinated.

    the incentives have never reached “get it” level

    1. If they start paying people to get it, you know something is wrong.

      1. they’re terrifying everyone with adorable cartoon ads lately … apparently if I don’t get a shot everyone dies.

        1. Every government in the world agrees that everyone should get the shot, like it or not.

          That is scary all by itself.

          1. and if you don’t think it’s scary enough, they’ll be happy to warn you about the next totally random, unplanned pandemic that is going to kill even more of us and all of our freedoms. But trust them, they would never do anything to hurt us even though they somehow know about all of the things that will hurt us far in advance.

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          2. If you’re comfortable with the risk, I feel like that’s reason enough to be hesitant, or refuse the vaccine right there. It’s important not to normalize things like this, particularly when people are talking seriously about needing vaccination papers to go about normal activities.
            I hope, and so far see no reason not to believe, that these vaccines are pretty safe and effective. But I have zero faith that next time government decides we must all inject something into ourselves that that will always be true.

            1. I’m going to wait to get stabbed until I am denied the right to engage in everyday activities for failure to obey. Until then the nags can fuck off.

              1. That’s probably about what it will be for me. At some point I’m going to need to get on a plane, for example.
                I’d also like to find out if I have already had it before getting a jab.

                1. “I’d also like to find out if I have already had it before getting a jab.”

                  From what I’ve seen, the fact that a 97 year old leukemia patient contracted the virus more than once is proof that natural antibodies don’t work and that everyone must get the vaccine.

                  1. My co-worker had it twice in the space of six months, so it might be possible. Then again, we have literal fruit testing positive for the virus, so maybe one of those times he had something else.

                2. So far there are no advantages whatsoever for the vaccinated passengers with respect to flying domestically. Maybe HI will offer an incentive for vaccination. Still uncertain.

                  1. That’s more or less what I thought.

                    I’ll consider it when it means that no one will ask me to wear a mask and we can shake hands and talk to people and act like human beings at work.

              2. Hey remember when you called everyone who said they didn’t want to wear 2 diapers on their face granny killers who were personally responsible for the death of your aging relatives? And then we all told you to fuck off because you were a fucking Karen nag? Haha. See it’s funny because you’re such a piece of bootlicking Marxist fucking dog shit.

                Hey remember 2 weeks ago when you said you were done with Reason and were going to go circle jerk cytotoxic and whiteknight at Glibertarians? What happened bub, they toss you out already? Or did you encounter a non-Marxist and have to flee back to your safe space?

            2. I’ve had it with positive antibody test about a month after. They can fuck off if they think I’m going to add unnecessary risk as an already healthy, immune person.

    2. Our public health friends fail to understand that “Vaccines are effective and you should get one, but keep wearing your double masks because we aren’t really sure if vaccines are effective” was not a very persuasive incentive to get vaccinated.

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  2. “What is attainable? “Rather than making a long-promised exit,” Mandavilli says, “the virus will most likely become a manageable threat that will continue to circulate in the United States for years to come, still causing hospitalizations and deaths but in much smaller numbers.” That sounds like a win to me.”

    Or people could get vaccinated and we pretty much beat it out entirely. But hey, we can’t expect any of the freeloaders not getting a vaccine to care. They’re happy as hell to take advantage of everything society has to offer but will balk at doing one thing to help it.

    So let’s call them out for what they are- freeloaders and moochers. They want all the benefits of society but don’t want to do a damn thing to give back. It’s nothing but take, take, take.

    If there were any justice those people would be basically forced out of society. Don’t want the shot? Fine. But go fuck off kindly and leave the rest of us alone.

    1. Another parody account. Haven’t they stopped being funny yet?

      1. I kind of think this one is for real.

        1. Sadly, yes. I think it may be a sock account of Tony’s (they both post similar drivel) but I’m not sure why anyone of sound mind would create a second account just to post the same inane tripe as their first account.

          Of wait, I said “of sound mind,” that rules Tony out.

          1. I don’t find it too hard to believe that there is more than one bitchy lefty on here making similar comments.

            1. In my opinion it’s intellectually weak to believe that when several people say similar things, that that’s proof that they’re all the same person.

              If that was the case then these entire comments are run by three or four people.

              1. I think that’s a fair point, but the style of writing of these two is almost the same that it makes it hard not to think it’s the same person

                1. People say I’m me, WK, Squirrely, jeff, and I don’t know who else. And when a new handle posts anything remotely libertarian they’re met with a half-dozen “Fuck off sarcasmic”s.

                  It’s dumb.

                  1. People say I’m me, WK, Squirrely, jeff, and I don’t know who else.

                    FWIW, I’ve never gotten why people say that. You, WK, Squirlsy, and chemjeff don’t even have remotely similar writing styles nor do any of those posters make similar jokes or comments. At least not that I’ve ever seen. It would take serious commitment to the act to keep all those different personas straight and I’ve seen nothing to lead me to believe that all of those people are really the same person, unlike Tony and rasberry here who often say remarkably similar things.

                    1. The only person who for sure uses multiple handles is Tulpa. He even brags about spoofing other people to ruin their reputation. Yet when one of his victims points this out they’re accused of running multiple socks. Yeah, that’s right. When a guy who brags about running multiple socks and spoofing people does exactly that, the people he spoof are accused of running socks. And people believe it.

                    2. Hinh regularly used socks. But he couldn’t manage to *not* post in those exactly the same things he posted under his normal account. The same drivel, the same arguments, the same links, the same wild formatting, the same derisive asides. It’s like he tried to disguise himself by putting on googly eye glasses or glued on a mustache…while you watched him do it…

                    3. Sarcasmic has been caught posting sqrsly copy on accident.

                    4. Sarcasmic has been caught posting sqrsly copy on accident.

                      Case in point.

                    5. Literally no one has ever accused sarcasmic the perpetual victim of being chemjeff or white knight (who, along with Depresso Liber are the same person, a fellow who used to use the handle “cytotoxic”). He just makes shit up so that he can use it as an excuse to dismiss people when he gets caught in his drunken stupors sockpuppeting. See above, where he claims that pointing out the time he literally posted verbatim a 5 paragraph copypasta that SQRSLY One had posted in another thread mere moments before because he forgot to change his handle back as a “case in point” of his victimization. He’s a piece of shit pussy bitch who can’t take responsibility for anything in his life, including his self-confessed welfare usage, chronic alcoholism, homelessness, and failed marriage. It’s all a conspiracy against him. It’s all someone else’s fault. He’s always the victim. Always being persecuted. Always bombarded at every turn by Mean Girls. Being a pathetic bitch without a ball in his sack he can’t bring himself to admit that he got caught in flagrante delicto sockpuppeting.

              2. If that was the case then these entire comments are run by three or four people.

                To be honest, that’s actually a working theory of mine. Specifically that maybe we’re all just figments of one very disturbed individual’s mind.

                1. OK, you figured it out. Everyone here is a figment of my imagination. Tomorrow you will all have new personalities, but of course you won’t know.

                  1. It is known that there are an infinite number of worlds, simply because there is an infinite amount of space for them to be in. However, not every one of them is inhabited. Therefore, there must be a finite number of inhabited worlds. Any finite number divided by infinity is as near to nothing as makes no odds, so the average population of all the planets in the Universe can be said to be zero. From this it follows that the population of the whole Universe is zero, and that any people you may meet from time to time are merely the products of a deranged imagination.

                    -The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

                    1. lol this.

              3. “If that was the case then these entire comments are run by three or four people”

                They arent?

              4. Despite the fact that you call anyone who isn’t a violent Marxist a Trumpista insurrectionist?

          2. I thought the same thing sounds like Tony almost exactly so does american socia1ist.

            1. Or they all follow the same people on Twitter or something.

    2. Because freedom means obeying commands, asking permission, and being forced out of society if you refuse.

      1. No but every society in history has had a certain level of expectations from its participants or they get ostracized. This is regardless of political affiliation or economic preferences.

        Humans HATE able bodied freeloaders. Because they are a drain on the rest of us.

        By all means, nobody should be forced to inject anything into their body they don’t want to. But you gotta expect the shaming that will come with that choice. That is human nature and a basic human right to not have to carry the weight of everyone else, when you are doing your part.

        1. So you’re ready to die?
          Works for me.

        2. If society wants to ostracize someone for not getting the polio or measles vaccines, whatever. Giving people shit for not getting this shot, which as far as I can tell doesn’t confer immunity, for a disease that 99.6% of people survive, just makes them entitled twatwaffles.

          1. If society wants to ostracize someone for not getting the polio or measles vaccines, whatever. Giving people shit for not getting this shot, which as far as I can tell doesn’t confer immunity, for a disease that 99.6% of people survive, just makes them entitled twatwaffles.

            You are making a distinction without a difference.
            And your numbers are bullshit as well.
            But if society decides to ostracize you for whatever reason — so it goes. Whether you agree with it or not.

            If it’s ok for society to demand a vaccine for a contagious disease like measles then its ok for that society to demand you get vaccinated against COVID or any other communicable disease. If a majority decides that it is required then it will be required — regardless of whatever ridiculous conspiratorial beliefs you may have.

            Freedom doesn’t mean that because you don’t deem something important that everyone else has to accommodate your stupid ass.

            1. If it’s ok for society to demand a vaccine for a contagious disease like measles then its ok for that society to demand you get vaccinated against COVID

              No, there is a qualitative and quantitative difference between a century old vaccine with a well-understood mechanism of action and a lengthy safety record available for study that has been trialed and approved by the FDA for longer than your grandparents have been alive and an experimental mRNA vaccine tested for 6 months and only authorized for emergency use. It’s a distinction with a huge fucking difference. And society isn’t demanding shit you bootlicking Nazi faggot, little Eichmann bootlickers like you are demanding that I take part in a global, uncontrolled human trial of a vaccine, and you can go fuck yourself with a running chainsaw. The only person with conspiratorial beliefs is you, ascribing ill motives to people who demand normal safety and efficacy trials that are required of every other fucking vaccine ever released in the last century. Freedom means exactly that if I don’t deem something important, some faggot little Nazi bootlicker like you can’t do shit about it, and if you try you’re going to wind up with a ~4″ diameter exit wound on the back side of your head.

      2. And yet in the earlier thread you were more worried about how the right treated the left than the authoritarian over reach of the left.

      3. That was certainly your position for the past 12 months that you were arguing for mask mandates and accusing anyone who refused to comply of being a literal murdered who was personally responsible for killing your grandmother, you pathetic state worshiping Nazi piece of shit.

        It’s amazing how quickly you got bounced out of Glibertarians on your drunken fucking ass exactly as I predicted you would.

    3. What about politicians that send covid positive patients to nursing homes? What should be done with them?

      1. Preferably drawn and quartered. Or Scaphism, either one.

    4. How do you flag this post for Medical Misinformation?

      1. Since this isn’t Youtube you can’t, but you can click the little flag icon then reload the page to make the retardation go away so you at least don’t have to look at it anymore.

    5. Mind your own damn business. You don’t get to demand that people inject themselves with experimental drugs.

    6. Whatever you say, Stone Cold Steve Austin.

      1. COVID-316

    7. Hyperbolic. Myopic. Someone refuses a single vaccination and this qualifies them as a freeloader? There’s no way you can quantify whether they “don’t want to do a damn thing to give back [to society].” Furthermore, the vaccine does not provide sterilizing immunity (i.e. you can still catch the virus and transmit it). COVID is now endemic, like the flu, and will mutate from season to season. This isn’t polio. A vaccine will not end this thing.

      1. Sorry, that’s not the comment to which I replied. Not sure how this landed here.

  3. Ah yes the further moving of the goalposts continues.

    You can play along or you can wake up.

  4. In other words, we are to play up every possible uncertainty, however absurd, so we can say the crisis has not passed and will not pass. Ubiquitous fear mongering by the former newspaper.

    1. I feel like many others as soon as there’s some return to rational behavior NYT and others will drum something else up to agitate the fear in the masses.

      1. as soon as there’s some return to rational behavior NYT and others will drum something else up to agitate the fear in the masses.

        Two words: climate change.

  5. I’m sure the vaccine is safe but there seem to be so many people who seem convinced that they are going to either die or have to remain indefinitely sealed in their homes alone with 47 masks on forever that I’ve decided to generously give my dosage to them.

    Then, after all of these poor souls have safely resumed their lives, I’ll wait another 5-10 years and have whichever vaccine is still on the market.

    1. So you are saying you aren’t sure the vaccine is safe and you fear the side-effects?

  6. When a quarter of Americans still say they do not plan to get vaccinated, that confusion is not likely to help matters.

    Right, which means they’ll catch it and thus be immune.

    1. Hold up a sec there… With that kind of reason and logic you risk being branded a witch and burned at the stake.


    2. A fair number of those refusing vaccination have already caught it – and that’s why they’re refusing it.

      There is some interesting evidence suggesting that folks who have strong adverse reactions to the vaccine may be doing so because they previously had the disease, maybe asymptomatically, and their system is already primed to react strongly to the antigens.

      1. I think the data to date backs up your statement.

      2. Several previous attempts at coronavirus vaccines failed badly because subjects who had had the vaccines had much worse outcomes because the immune system went nuts.

  7. Cases, hospitalizations, deaths.

    That’s all that matters.

    The herd immunity discussion is for chumps.

    1. Personally, I’d add long covid to that, as a relative had long lasting symptoms (months), as a subset of the infected seem to…at least until the long term effects of the disease are better understood. But yes, so many people do seem to lose the plot. Death, hospitalization, transmission/cases, long covid. In Israel, UK and now America, the first two seem well under control, and in Israel and the UK, and many states, the third as well. (I’m not aware of data on the fourth, though it may exist.)

  8. So, I assume that when they say “herd immunity” here, they mean a level of immunity where the virus will pretty much die out in the population. But I don’t think that’s a very good use of the term. Herd immunity (as I understood it before the past year happened) is a phenomenon, not a threshold. It is simply the phenomenon that as more individuals in a population develop immunity to some pathogen, the less infection and illness there will be in that population. And we have clearly been seeing herd immunity in that sense developing over the past year. Just compare last years death data from the northeastern states that were hit hardest to what happened this winter. New York is especially striking.

  9. The entire premise that herd immunity is a light switch that “kicks on” at a certain percentage has ALWAYS been ridiculous. A community with 5% protection will see the virus spread slower than if that number were 0. At 10% it will spread slower than it did if 5% were immune. All the way up to whatever number actually ticks the R below 1. If “herd immunity” is 60%, we’re nearly as protected at 58%. Or 55%. Or 50%. The hospitals are not in danger and haven’t been for a year. This is 100% about politicians not wanting to admit the lockdowns weren’t needed.

    1. Yes. It’s a shorthand or catch-all for what, in other circles, would be termed a ‘point of diminishing returns’ or a ‘synergistic effect’. The idea that it’s anything other than a CYA to explain why a disease expected to kill 20% of a population only killed 18 or 15, or 5% is absurd. The idea that it’s the point at which the hosts eradicate the disease is beyond absurd.

  10. The emphasis on a goal that may be impossible to reach reduces the incentive to get vaccinated.

    The goal is only impossible to reach by the most twisted, selective, and anti-thetic of definitions of ‘herd immunity’. Viral/pathogen eradication was never part of the concept, simply death/morbidity. The only way it is impossible to reach is if the herd dies or are all irreparable stricken by the disease.

    1. It should reduce the incentive to force people to get vaccinated, but it probably won’t–since progressives often care more about forcing people to do things than they care about the results.

      They’re like people who inject themselves with placebo, not because they care about how the drugs make them feel but because they like jabbing themselves in the arm.

  11. “If COVID-19 Herd Immunity Is ‘Not Attainable,’ Does It Matter?

    In the minds of authoritarian socialists, it should.

    The flip side of the idea that no one should be free to do anything that isn’t in everyone’s best interests is that we all should be forced to do something if it’s everyone’s best interest. Leaving aside the question of how progressives know what’s in everyone’s best interests (as they claim), if achieving herd immunity is impossible, then maybe they won’t force us to do it. The sooner progressives come to terms with the pointlessness of their stupid efforts, the sooner we get to the day when they stop trying to force us to do that stupid thing.

    I understand the CCP is finally coming to terms with the fact that its one-child policy is self-destructive. Maduro (like Lenin) finally relented on absolute control of food distribution once he came to terms with the realization that his people were starving because of it.

    I understand the progressives of New York have finally come to terms with the realization that the war on marijuana was expensive and destructive, but that was, presumably, only after they finally came to terms with the realization that their efforts to eradicate marijuana were futile.

    If they abandon a forced vaccination program before it starts because they realize ahead of time that it’s futile, that’ll be a big improvement, but don’t bet on it. It’s too bad progressives are so stupid that they can’t see the likely consequences of their polices until after the damage has been done, but that’s another reason why progressives are America’s most horrible people.

    Part of it is their lust for forced sacrifice as an end in itself. It’s like a religion, really. Forcing people to make sacrifices for what progressives say is the common good is what being a progressive is all about, but plenty of them are into forced sacrifice just for the sake of making sacrifices. That’s why they’ll do things like shut down our fossil fuel plants in the name of climate change despite India and China having more in the way of fossil fuel plants under construction than we could possibly close.

    1. I don’t think it’s a safe assumption that just because something is impossible they won’t continue trying to make it happen. They are, after all, utopians of various stripes.

      And Utopia is impossible. So…

      And of course, it also assumes herd immunity is what they are ‘striving for’ as opposed to vast and permanent expansions of centralized power.

      1. Yeah, that’s more or less what I’m saying.

        Because something can’t be done is a great reason not to force people to do it, but that doesn’t mean they won’t force us to do it for the love of forcing people to do things against their will. Progressives do hate everyday Americans after all–especially if they’re white, Christian, patriotic, or heterosexual.

        Captain Bligh: “Why aren’t the men working?”

        First Mate: “They haven’t had anything to eat for days, Captain”.

        Captain Bligh: “And why haven’t they eaten?”

        First Mate: “We ran out of food days ago.”

        Captain Bligh: “Then we must force them to eat. Where’s the lash?”

    2. I am enjoying the “another reason why progressives are America’s most horrible people” series.

      1. It really seems to make them upset when I say that.

        Their moral superiority is an assumption that needs to be questioned, and being profoundly opposed to respecting our right to make choices for ourselves (agency), they don’t really have a moral leg to stand on. Ethics isn’t even possible without agency!

        Progressive morality consists of little more than might makes right and historical grievances–and what are those grievances legitimately about if not our obligation to respect someone’s agency? That’s another reason why progressives are America’s most horrible people.

        1. Ethics isn’t even possible without agency!

          It’s worse than not realizing that people need to be able to choose other than what they did in order for there to be morality and ethics.

          It’s more like they don’t know rape is wrong–because we’re all obligated to respect the right of other people to make choices for themselves.

          And, no, the race, religion, sex, and orientation of the rapist doesn’t justify violating our obligation . . . surely, this is another reason why progressives are America’s most horrible people.

  12. They had to get in this particular bit fear-mongering right now because Covid hospitalizations are about to become rare. You wouldn’t buy it a month from now.

  13. When people have largely devolved into two insect swarms about C-19, conversations about herds are no longer collectivist enough for them.

    How about a little American individualism and self-reliance? Lookout for yourself. Take due personal precautions, they prevent C-19 and all kinds of other infectious diseases and parasites – many from the deadly to the only itchy have been at all time lows among individual taking C-19 precautions. Get the vaccine, if you have no clear contraindication. Don’t be insects in a swarm or, even, sheep in a herd. Be a healthy, self-reliant, American individual.

    1. “How about a little American individualism and self-reliance?”
      “Get the vaccine”


      1. Forehead slapping irony.

    2. Did it. Fully vaccinated, as of today.

  14. The key difference between herd immunity and “not my problem” is kids. For now.

    Whooping cough remains dangerous because left wing anti-vaxxers create opportunities for outbreaks that endanger children who are too young to get vaccinated.

    This appears to be the right wing version of this. The difference is that kids are much less likely to be seriously harmed.

    For adults, the chance of a vaccinated adult to be hospitalized with COVID is the same chance of a bad outcome from being vaccinated. In that scenario there is no utilitarian or ethical argument for forcing an adult to get vaccinated in order to protect a second adult who is already vaccinated.

    The problem is that in this scenario, the virus never burns out. I suppose this could lead to mutations, etc. Realistically, we’ll soon approve the vaccine for pediatric use and then people can choose to protect themselves rather than force other people to get vaccinated.

    1. Not wanting to subject children to an experimental vaccine for a virus that is less dangerous to them than the flu in order to protect old, morbidly obese adults is not the same thing as promoting established, tested vaccines in order to protect infants.

      Why the F are people acting like grown adults who made certain choices that put them into a high-risk group need to be coddled and protected from danger like newborn babies? Even to the point of experimental vaccine testing on actual babies? It’s all part of the cultural shift to stripping away the intrinsic and unique value that children provide to our society so they can be just another tool for whatever our betters want. One of the most disturbing developments in the past year, IMO.

    2. It’s a common virus, bitch.

  15. Also, I believe that herd immunity is a scientific inevitability. So who knows what the NYT is babbling on about, except there seems to be something about permanent lockdowns that gives the political left a raging fucking boner. It’s becoming pathological with them.

  16. No way in hell will we ever get to ZERO infection rate with COVID like we have with Polio. But somehow that seems to be the belief. We have herd immunity with Rubella and Pertussis, but we still have some outbreaks due to antivaxxers (who used to be all Democrat, now they are becoming all Republicans).

    Don’t make perfect the enemy of the good. 80% vaccination rate with an 80% effective vaccine is good. Trying to reach an unattainable perfection will only prevent that. We might not ever get to 95% population immunity, but that’s no reason to have a mass spit swap in protest.

    We can get 80+ levels of vaccination, and we should try for that for goal one. Then 90% for goal two.

    1. We live in a safety-obsessed society that won’t accept anything less than zero, and will welcome any effort by government to achieve this unattainable goal, no matter how tyrannical it may be.

      Sad but true.

      1. Yet you attacked the side that wasn’t over reaching for years because you feared the safety of mean tweets. Ignoring the navy state buildup of the left as recently as today.


        1. I dare you to make a post without the word “you.”

      2. Boy in the bubble, hermetically sealed society. If they ever saw a picture of the insides of the water mains supplying their area they would convert to bottled water that day.

        1. The inside of a toilet tank times 100. I’ve heard some crazy stories from plumbers.

    2. No way in hell will we ever get to ZERO infection rate with COVID like we have with Polio.

      The infatuation with case counts is a shambling, monstrous illustration of missing the forest for the trees.

  17. All restrictions should end six weeks from the point that anyone anywhere in the US can get a vaccine appointment within several days. I believe we are at the point now that everyone who wants one can get one presently.

    1. It really should be. But these assholes are determined to micro-manage this shit for as long as they can get away with it.
      I hope as summer comes on people just stop doing it. But I said that last year too and I was rather disappointed.

    2. Friday in Houston there were electronic billboards advertising FREE VACCINE, NO WAIT at NRG Stadium.

  18. You have to love comments like this: “And ‘if even more contagious variants develop,’ she adds, ‘the {herd immunity} calculation will have to be revised upward again.’”

    Sure. And if fireballs start falling from the sky, there will be rampant fires across the world, too.

    (Of course, if the novel coronavirus mutates into a less contagious or even benign variant, we will have already reached herd immunity. But let’s not talk about that)

    1. Yeah, people seem to be assuming that variants/mutations must be scary and dangerous. That’s not what happened with the highly similar SARS1. When’s the last time anyone died from that?

    2. ‘if even more contagious variants develop,’

      I’m at the point where I’m wondering if at least some of the variants didn’t actually come from China as well. Because….

      1. China would totally get away with it and
      2. You can see all of the “health experts” (who always turn out to have some connection with gain of function research or at least CCP connections) practically pissing themselves with glee every time they speculate about how much the variants will interfere with any attempt to return to normal.

  19. What about covid19, intrinsic to the virus itself, makes it special.
    Do you run articles every couple of months about getting herd immunity to the fucking flu?
    Do you write idiotic, Karen shit like “get the vaccine” or “We can get 80+ levels of vaccination, and we should try for that for goal one. Then 90% for goal two” for the fucking flu?
    Stop spreading bullshit justifying totalitarianism, or kill yourself because you’re a pathetic clump of cells, not a human.

  20. 30 years ago I came to the conclusion that the Libertarian party attracted the brilliant and the kooks, and not much in between. I see by reading the comments that hasn’t changed.

  21. The reproductive rate of the virus is not fixed. The estimate of 4 is for a place doing business as usual in order to prevent spread. Immunity reduces this number, as do mitigating measures like lockdowns, social distancing and masks. The more immunity you have, the less of the latter you need to do to keep the infection in check.

    So, if you like lockdowns and social distancing and masks, you could support having a lower level of vaccination.

    Herd immunity is the level where virus outbreaks die out on their own without taking any steps to stamp them out. If the steps are cheaper and less of a burden than encouraging vaccination, then you would chose to do the steps.

    But it certainly seems preferable to no longer have to do these steps, which are destructive to the economy and social life.

  22. I love Reason and am a regular (almost fanatical) fan of the material this organization disseminates. I get the email newsletters, share Reason’s stuff all the time on my FB page, and am almost always applauding the content they put out. But I’ve watched the arc of Reason’s articles during the “pandemic” and been immensely disappointed by the overt dearth of healthy skepticism about the alleged “vaccines.” The general message Reason has been propagating about the vaccine (since before the first one even became available) is, at the very least, that we should assume it is (or is going to be, when it issues) safe and effective, and that people should generally get vaccinated. At worst, it’s been a message that arguably borders on that of a naively gullible Big Government / Big Pharma / Big Brother sycophant.

    There are numerous and very significant reasons to possess a skeptical, even hostile, attitude toward these vaccines (not to mention the government-sponsored propaganda campaign to scare everyone into “rolling up their sleeve” and getting the shots). For one thing, what’s the *normal* length of the process of clinical testing for new vaccines? Years. Five to ten years. That’s standard procedure, even with regard to vaccines for very serious emergent threats. How long have these vaccines even existed? Less than one year – way less. Is there a *single person* on this planet who can lay eyes on one shred of genuine evidence – clinical data of any kind – indicating the long-term effects of any of these vaccines? The honest and obvious answer is, “No. No one can – because that evidence does not exist, anywhere.” To even imply that one of these vaccines is “safe” (for anyone, much less for everyone) is gross and negligent (or malevolent) misrepresentation of the facts – IOW, it’s a lie. No one can make that statement in good faith; no one can convey that implied assertion in good faith, either. These vaccines, which do appear to have at least positive short-term effects in terms of reducing the severity of infections and risk of transmission, might make sense to a narrow segment of the adult population over a certain age, or to those who are otherwise immunocompromised, because, to them, the risks (which are largely unknown to anyone and could, thus, include a wide range of possible long-term effects) might be, in their judgment, worth the known benefit of reducing their chances of getting severe case of COVID and dying in the short term. But to most adults, and certainly to anyone younger than 30 and in good health, the unknown risks of the vaccines may weigh heavily in comparison to the relatively negligible threat posed to them by the virus. In their case, not getting the shot is a *perfectly reasonable* decision, and – in any case – should remain under all circumstances a choice they alone are responsible for making for themselves. And that’s only one out of dozens of reasons I could offer for why we should not prematurely encourage general vaccination, nor assume the vaccines offered are safe for even the vast majority of people to take. The lack of evidence about long-term effects does *not* equate to the existence of evidence indicting their alleged and oft-touted “safety.” Not knowing is not tantamount to knowing.

    Reason (the publication) – if it is, indeed, reasonable – must admit this is the truth, and should stop writing articles that presume (much less advance the proposition) that these vaccines are beneficial and “safe,” and should therefore be on the “to do” list of Americans or anyone else. The implicit trust that Reason seems to have for the “safety” of these vaccines is almost enough to turn my stomach, and I fail to comprehend why otherwise-libertarian-leaning, intelligent, and thoughtful people would adopt this trusting attitude toward this issue, when it seems to run completely counter to all their other views and inclinations. Where is the critical thought and healthy skepticism about this topic that we see, for instance, in their analysis of, say, domestic wealth redistribution schemes or war-mongering and meddling in foreign affairs? Why, when it comes to injecting an untested, unproven, and completely novel chemical concoction into our bodies, are we expected to just bypass the whole question of whether or not that’s actually a beneficial or advisable thing to do?? Why are we expected to simply assume that it’s not something we should assess or consider in the same light as the Green New Deal, national firearms registration, or price controls on goods and services? It’s not inherently benign, and it should not be treated as such. In fact, a damn good case can be made that it may very well be one of the most dangerous “suggestions” we have been offered in our lifetimes. Where’s the outcry from Reason on those points? IMO, that voice (of reason) is very much needed and called for in this discussion, if it’s called for in any discussion at all, but Reason itself is, somehow, disappointingly absent from that side of the dialogue here. Or, at least, such has been my observation, from the content that has come to my inbox this past year.


    1. The ‘normal’ vaccine approval process is stupid long, because the FDA over-regulates.

      The first flu vaccine was developed and deployed within 2 years. (For the 1957 pandemic. It wasn’t fast enough – by 1959, the pandemic was already ending).

      The literature already documents their effectiveness, so of course we should believe they’re effective. Tens of millions of people have been vaccinated with few serious attributable side effects. Pretending the vaccine is unproven at this point is just fearmongering for the sake of fearmongering.

  23. Vax approval for 12 years old coming next week. This might be interesting.

    1. Good point. I wonder if the statistics about the “unvaccinated” Americans include those aged 16 and under for whom no vaccine yet exists.

  24. Medicine pre-2020: curing the sick. Medicine 2020 and beyond: punishing the healthy.

  25. Reaching herd immunity is inevitable, one way or another. Pandemics don’t last forever.

    Also, the simple calculation assumes that the population mixes homogeneously, which is the most pessimistic assumption you could make for herd immunity. Human populations don’t mix homogeneously, not even close. The closest you could get would be in a one-church town where everyone attends that church, and people still wouldn’t interact with each other at equal rates across the whole population of that small town. The farther you get from homogeneous mixing, the lower herd immunity threshold gets.

    No human-human transmission pandemic has ever achieved more than ~33% population penetration, with the average being 20-25%. (Now, vaccines are different than natural infection, since natural infection will tend to hit those more connected socially first, while vaccination will be randomly distributed, so you might need higher vaccine uptake rates to achieve herd immunity than from natural immunity. But 85% is still nonsense).

  26. The goal of herd immunity through vaccination will only be impossible as long as right wing publications like this one keep promoting the fiction that there’s some right exists to spread disease in this country (see “Freedom Becomes a Long-Haul Covid Victim”).

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