We assess the feasibility of reaching the herd immunity threshold against SARS-CoV-2 through vaccination, considering vaccine effectiveness (VE), transmissibility of the virus and the level of pre-existing immunity in populations, as well as their age structure. If highly transmissible variants of concern become dominant in areas with low levels of naturally-acquired immunity and/or in populations with large proportions of < 15 year-olds, control of infection without non-pharmaceutical interventions may only be possible with a VE ≥ 80%, and coverage extended to children. Initial reports of vaccine effectiveness against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARSCoV-2), the virus responsible for coronavirus disease (COVID-19), have suggested a substantial reduction of the risk of infection [1]. Nevertheless, with the emergence of more transmissible variants such as B.1.1.7 [2], how large-scale immunisation programmes against SARS-CoV-2 will perform is currently unclear. This study assesses the potential of COVID-19 vaccination to generate herd immunity and takes into account vaccine effectiveness, naturally-acquired immunity and achievable vaccination coverage (depending on the population age structure), as well as two transmissibility scenarios ((i) with pre-B.1.1.7, and (ii) with exclusively B.1.1.7 variants).

Cite as

Hodgson, D., Flasche, S., Jit, M., Kucharski, A. & CMMID COVID-19 Working Group 2021, 'The potential for vaccination-induced herd immunity against the SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.7 variant', Eurosurveillance, 26(20), article no: 2100428. https://doi.org/10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2021.26.20.2100428

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Last updated: 01 April 2023
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