Last spring, President Joe Biden set a goal for 70% of American adults to be vaccinated in time for July 4th. As of May 2021, 50% of Americans have been at least partially vaccinated against the disease. While the feat is substantial, it has not put pandemic risks to an end just yet. A decline in new demand for shots has left the president’s goal uncertain. Despite not being close to herd immunity levels (which would require 70% to 85% of a population to be vaccinated, many states have lifted their COVID-19 related safety restrictions. Public compliance with social distancing is on the decline. For as long as the US is not at herd immunity, this behavior allows highly contagious and (eventually) vaccine-resistant variants to spread. COVID-19 and genetic testing can solve a lot of these issues.
When Will the US Reach Herd Immunity?
The issue stretched beyond US borders. Despite problems in allocation and convincing people to take the vaccine, the US is far ahead of most countries in its vaccination efforts. Current estimates predict the United States will reach herd immunity levels of vaccination by late this year. Compare that to most of Africa and parts of Eastern Europe, Asia, and Latin America, who will take until at least 2023 to do the same.
In the meantime, 2 in 3 epidemiologists believe that mutations in the virus will render first-generation vaccines ineffective by 2022. 88% agree that low vaccination rates in some countries will allow vaccine-resistant strains to develop. So by the time most of the world has gotten a vaccine, the vaccine will no longer be enough to end the pandemic. Another round of mass vaccination will be needed, and unless the second one rolls out considerably faster than the first, this pattern will become entrenched in the lives of billions.
It is frustrating to know there is no certain end to the pandemic at this time. The knowledge that strangers on the other side of the world are every bit as responsible for ending the pandemic as one’s self and neighbors. “[I]n a pandemic of course we’re only safe if we’re all safe,” as Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance put it.
High Risk Identification
What steps can people take in the meantime? For people who are at high risk for severe coronavirus symptoms, this question is extremely pressing. From liver disease to diabetes to pregnancy, there exist a wide swath of people with comorbid conditions. While the rest of the population only maintains routine precautions like washing their hands and wearing masks in certain areas, at-risk people may continue to socially distance and avoid crowds.
For those who don’t know their own risk, GeneType COVID-19 Risk Test is there to help. Right now, 1 in 4 adults could be incorrectly categorized for their risk of developing severe symptoms. This at-home kit seeks to fix that by considering 16 comorbidities and genetic markers. It improves risk prediction by 25% over standard clinical models and users receive their risk score in a detailed personal report in 5-7 days.