COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Tracker: Week of April 19

Editor's note: Below you'll find release of the COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Tracker originally published April 20, 2021. Visit the COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Tracker homepage for the latest data.

Even while the Johnson & Johnson vaccine remains paused due to an investigation surrounding rare and severe side effects, COVID-19 vaccination rates are holding steady in the United States.

As of April 20, over a quarter of the U.S. population is fully immunized against COVID-19, and 40% have received at least one dose. Eighty percent of available vaccines are making it into arms for the third week in a row—a high level of efficiency compared to the 50% rate we observed when this tracker launched in January.

This stasis speaks to the improvements in vaccine registration, accessibility, and distribution plans across the country. But there are a couple of figures that are moving in the wrong direction, and they speak to uncertainty in Americans who have yet to be vaccinated. 

Vaccine Enthusiasm Is Waning

For the first time, the number of people who received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine has decreased week over week. At the same time, the government delivered 4 million fewer vaccine doses to the states this week compared to last. 

Taken together, these findings suggest demand for appointments is starting to fade. (And if you’ve tried to make a vaccine appointment recently, you may have noticed it’s easier than ever.) States can decide for themselves how much of their weekly vaccine allocation they’d actually like to order. If fewer people are signing up for appointments, there’s no need to order the full supply.

In other words, many of the people who wanted vaccines have already gotten them.

What Does This Mean For Herd Immunity?

A quarter of the population being fully immunized is not enough to curb this pandemic. A better estimate is 70% or higher.

Why 70%?

While there’s still no clear percentage of the population necessary to reach herd immunity for COVID-19, 70% is a good place to start. Herd immunity refers to the protectiveness achieved when a significant portion of a population develops immunity to an infectious disease, either through vaccination or having a prior illness. Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, used to say 60% to 70% of the population needed to be vaccinated or recovered to reach herd immunity, his projection has evolved to range from 70% to 90%.

Herd immunity is a complex calculation that relies on both past infections and number of people vaccinated. Because the World Health Organization emphasizes herd immunity should rely on vaccination and not disease exposure, for the sake of projections, our numbers focus on the time it will take to hit 70% through vaccination alone.

To get there, we’ll need people to continue signing up for vaccines, and public health officials and community leaders continuing to encourage them to do so. Right now, patterns from the last seven days suggest 11 states are on track to fully immunize 70% of their populations in June. And the country as a whole will hit that threshold sometime during the month of July. That means we’re on track for a semblance of normalcy by the 4th of July, as Biden pledged in a March speech.

 Data by Amanda Morelli/Adrian Nesta

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Article Sources
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  1. World Health Organization. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Herd immunity, lockdowns and COVID-19. December 31, 2020.

  2. The White House. Remarks by President Biden on the anniversary of the COVID-19 shutdown. March 11, 2020.