The Potential Future of the COVID-19 Pandemic

There is growing optimism and hope that by virtue of ongoing immunization efforts, seasonality (declining infections through August), and naturally acquired immunity, by spring and early summer 2021 in the US there will be a substantial decline in the number of deaths and hospitalizations related to COVID-19. However, this optimism must be tempered by several important factors. The likelihood of achieving herd immunity against SARS-CoV-2 is low simply because not all individuals in the US are eligible to be vaccinated and a quarter of eligible individuals will likely decline to be immunized. Moreover, the vaccines do not provide full immunity against infection, and the currently available vaccines are less effective against variant B.1.351, and possibly other variants. Accordingly, the public and health systems need to plan for the possibility that COVID-19 will persist and become a recurrent seasonal disease.