The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that social distancing measures will need to stay in place "for the rest of this year," even as vaccination rollouts get under way globally, because it takes time to build up herd immunity.
WHO’s Chief Scientist Dr. Soumya Swaminathan said herd immunity -- a situation where the majority of a population becomes immune to the virus either because they have become infected and recovered, or through vaccination -- won't be achieved this year.
Speaking at a briefing on Monday, Swaminathan said:
Because even as vaccines start protecting the most vulnerable, we are not going to achieve any level of population immunity, or herd immunity in 2021 and even if it happens in a couple of pockets in a few countries, it's not going to protect people across the world."
Swaminathan added that until herd immunity is achieved, public health measures such as masks and social distancing will need to remain in place.
"The vaccines are going to come. They are going to go to all countries, but meanwhile we mustn't forget that there are measures that work and... it’s really important to remind people, both governments as well as individuals, on the responsibilities and the measures that we continue to need to practice... for the next... well for the rest of this year at least," she said.