Global control of COVID-19: good vaccines may not suffice

Eslava-Schmalbach et al.

The COVID-19 pandemic has unveiled health and socioeconomic inequities around the globe. Effective epidemic control requires the achievement of herd immunity, where susceptible individuals are conferred indirect protection by being surrounded by immunized individuals. The proportion of people that need to be vaccinated to obtain herd immunity is determined through the herd immunity threshold. However, the number of susceptible individuals and the opportunities for contact between infectious and susceptible individuals influence the progress of an epidemic. Thus, in addition to vaccination, control of a pandemic may be difficult or impossible to achieve without other public health measures, including wearing face masks and social distancing. This article discusses the factors that may contribute to herd immunity and control of COVID-19 through the availability of effective vaccines and describes how vaccine effectiveness in the community may be lower than that expected. It also discusses how pandemic control in some countries and populations may face vaccine accessibility barriers if market forces strongly regulate the new technologies available, according to the inverse care law.

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Opinion and analysis