More people have wanted COVID vaccines than were available. That’s about to change

April 21, 2021, 4:42 PM UTC

The COVID-19 mass vaccination saga is about to take yet another turn: Supply of available vaccines will begin to outstrip demand for them within the next month, according to a new report from health care think tank Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). And at that point, federal and state officials will have figure out how to convince those on-the-fence about getting vaccinated to receive their COVID shots.

“While timing may differ by state, we estimate that across the U.S. as a whole we will likely reach a tipping on vaccine enthusiasm in the next two to four weeks,” write the authors. “Once this happens, efforts to encourage vaccination will become much harder, presenting a challenge to reaching the levels of herd immunity that are expected to be needed.”

Vaccine eligibility in the U.S. opened up to all adults aged 16 and over on April 19 under guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). There are more than 86 million Americans who had been fully vaccinated as of April 20 and more than 133 million who had received at least one COVID vaccine dose.

Kaiser Family Foundation

But the clip of vaccinations has already begun to slow down, according to CDC data. On April 9, there were 3.94 million doses administered in the U.S. On April 16, the figure had dipped below 3 million. And while the numbers are subject to change since it takes time for federal health officials to receive state and local data, the most recently available data suggests 2.1 million or fewer doses administered over the past few days.

As the KFF report outlines, and if polling on vaccine enthusiasm versus vaccine skepticism is accurate, we’re now at a point where 27 million more U.S. adults would have to be vaccinated before brushing up against the so-called enthusiasm limit.

Depending on the pace of vaccinations in the coming weeks and whether or not more and more people who are on the fence about getting a shot change their minds, the U.S. could hit that wall anywhere between 15 and 28 days from now. And then the persuasion campaign will have to begin to get the country to upwards of 70% or 80% vaccinated in order to achieve herd immunity.

“Federal, state, and local officials, and the private sector, will face the challenge of having to figure out how to increase willingness to get vaccinated among those still on the fence, and ideally among the one-fifth of adults who have consistently said they would not get vaccinated or would do so only if required,” writes KFF.

That’s an effort that will require delicate messaging and coordination between local leaders, community groups, and government officials – psychological blitz that presents its own unique challenges.

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