SARS-CoV-2; herd immunity; vaccination
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COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) which emerged in December of 2019 and has been the leading global health concern since. SARS-CoV-2 is a positive sense single-stranded RNA virus coated with viral spike proteins that has led to over 500,000 deaths in the United States and is approaching 3,000,000 deaths worldwide. As COVID-19 persists globally in such high numbers, the virus has been able to undergo mutations, leading to three prominent variants: the United Kingdom variant (B.1.1.7), the South Africa variant (B.1.351), and the Brazil variant (P.1). These variants are more transmissible, causing an increase in cases and adding an additional layer of complexity when it comes to controlling the virus. For the majority of the population to be protected, herd immunity must be reached. Herd immunity is achieved when a sufficient amount of the population is immune to the virus, either by previous infection or vaccination, making the spread of illness less likely. Many experts estimate that the herd immunity threshold is 70%, while some experts claim the threshold to be closer to 80%. There are currently three vaccines that have been approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration: the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccines. When it comes to reaching herd immunity, the United States faces multiple social and biological factors that are halting progress. These factors include emerging variants, prominent anti mask sentiments, failure to follow social distancing guidelines, fear and misinformation surrounding the vaccines, and accessibility to the vaccine. How these challenges are faced will be reported along with major milestones from January 2021 to April 2021 as they will determine whether reaching herd immunity is possible for the United States in the near future.
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