WHO warns vaccines won’t deliver herd immunity in 2021

By Matthew Elmas

Tuesday January 12, 2021

(Image: Adobe/vdeineka)

Governments should not expect to achieve herd immunity from COVID-19 this year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned.

Dashing hopes coronavirus vaccines might allow some developed economies to see off the pandemic in 2021, WHO scientists today urged policymakers to remain vigilant and settle in for the long haul.

“We are not going to achieve any levels of population immunity or herd immunity in 2021,” WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said from Geneva on Tuesday.

Describing efforts to develop COVID-19 vaccines so quickly as ‘incredible’, Swaminathan said it would take time to scale dose production and inoculate billions of people.

“It takes time to scale the production of doses, not just in the millions, but here we are talking about in the billions,” Swaminathan said.

In the meantime, the WHO has advised policymakers to keep up efforts to suppress the virus, flagging there would be a need to continue social distancing measures and public health restrictions for the rest of 2021, at the least.

While the Australian government hopes to vaccinate four million people within the next 80 or so days, department of health secretary Brendan Murphy said last week that COVIDSafe measures are here to stay for the time being.

The federal government budgeted a full national rollout of coronavirus vaccines by the end of 2021 in its MYEFO statement last year, with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg yesterday talking up the prospects for a fast-tracked rollout program for economic recovery.

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