Researchers from University College London (UCL) have suggested that 73.4% of the British population will have received protection against COVID-19 by this coming Monday, 12 April. In other words, this means that the UK is well on its way of lifting all lockdown restrictions by 21 June, as Boris Johnson's roadmap out of lockdown indicated.
Current figures in the UK
As of today, over 31 million people have received their first dose of one of the coronavirus jabs meaning that almost half of the UK's population currently has virus-fighting antibodies. Coupled with those who are asymptomatic and those who have immunity from harder to detect T-cells, Karl Friston, UCL theoretical neuroscientist explains that:
Over 50 per cent of adults have been vaccinated, around 42 per cent of people have now been exposed to the virus and about 10 per cent have pre-existing immunity.
When factoring in the estimated efficacy of vaccination in terms of sterilising immunity, this – according to the model – means about 70 per cent of the population are immune. Based upon contact rates at the beginning of the pandemic and estimated transmission risk, this is nearly at the herd immunity threshold.
What exactly is herd immunity?
The term refers to the point in which a population becomes immune from an infectious disease either through vaccination or immunity that has been developed through a previous infection. Once enough people in a population have been shielded from an infectious disease, the virus' ability to spread dramatically reduces.
Essentially, the more 'barriers' that are developed within a community the harder it is for the virus to effectively multiply within. In the case of COVID-19, since it is a new virus the only possible way of achieving herd immunity is through vaccination which is why it was able to become a pandemic.
But now, with herd immunity rapidly forthcoming, the virus will reach a new phase: the endemic phase. This is when a disease can be regularly found among the population but not harmful enough to have a threatening impact on society.