Analysis: The (possibly) false hope of a vaccine

We’re all hoping for a vaccine to arrive on a white horse wielding a magic sword and save us from the dragon Corona, and it’s just not that simple.

Yesterday, Anthony Fauci (perhaps the doomsaying seer in our little mythological analogy) warned that a vaccine will take time.

“The one thing that you would not want to see with a vaccine is getting an [emergency use authorization] before you have a signal of efficacy,” he told Reuters, warning that a prematurely released vaccine could do more damage than good. “One of the potential dangers if you prematurely let a vaccine out is that it would make it difficult, if not impossible, for the other vaccines to enroll people in their trial.”

Translation: It’s going to have to be done in a deliberate way. But, even then, as Yale epidemiologist Virginia Pitzer said a few months ago, a vaccine is “not necessarily going to make everything go away so that it’s never a problem.”

She said that for a vaccine to help us reach the herd immunity threshold, it would have to have 67 percent efficacy — meaning that it would have to be 67 percent effective at stopping the disease and administered to 100 percent of the population, be 100 percent effective and administered to 67 percent of population, or somewhere between the two.

Meanwhile, a Gallup poll from earlier this month showed that one third of the U.S. population would refuse to be vaccinated. As Pitzer said, if only 66 percent of the population agrees to get the shot, it has to be 100 percent effective to result in herd immunity.

Add to all of that the fact that…

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