About half of eligible Americans have received booster shots, there have been nearly 80 million confirmed infections overall and many more infections have never been reported. One influential model uses those factors and others to estimate that 73% of Americans are, for now, immune to omicron, the dominant variant, and that could rise to 80% by mid-March.
“We have changed,” said Ali Mokdad, a professor of health metrics sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle. “We have been exposed to this virus and we know how to deal with it.”
the current and future variants of the remain a dangerous germ. It is still infecting more than 130,000 Americans and killing more than 2,000 every day.
And there will be future outbreaks. The notion of a “herd immunity” that could stop the virus has slipped away under the harsh reality of new variants, waning immunity, and the rejection of vaccines by some Americans.
Mokdad has optimism however that although cases will continue to climb, deaths and hospitalization will not.
With varying degrees of relief and caution, many Americans are starting to return to their pre-pandemic lifestyles.
As mask mandates ease, workers return to offices and flights fill up, experts are trying to understand whether this return to normal can last, or if another setback is looming.
Scientists are asking question like: How fast is booster protection waning against omicron? How long does protection from infection last? How many mild infections were never reported? How many people got infected but had no symptoms?
Scientists at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health estimate that about three out of four people in the United States will have been infected by omicron by the end of the surge.
They estimate about 45% of Virginians have the highest level of immunity through boosted vaccination or through vaccination plus a recent infection with omicron. Another 47% have immunity that has waned somewhat; and 7% are the most vulnerable because they were never vaccinated and never infected.
estimating protection is far from an exact science. It’s a moving target, as immunity wanes and new variants circulate. Protection varies widely from person to person. And it’s impossible to know for sure how many people are protected at all. The IHME model estimates a wide range — from 63% to 81% of Americans.
“We’ve reached a much better position for the coming months, but with waning immunity we shouldn’t take it for granted,” Mokdad said.
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