The Atlantic reports on why hitting the threshold might actually be impossible. But vaccines can still help end the pandemic.
While COVID-19 vaccines are very good—even unexpectedly good—at preventing disease, they are still unlikely to be good enough against transmission of the virus, which is key to herd immunity. On the whole, we should expect immunity to be less effective against transmission than against disease, to wane over time, and to be eroded by the new variants now emerging around the world. If vaccine efficacy against transmission falls below the herd-immunity threshold, then we would need to vaccinate more than 100 percent of the population to achieve herd immunity. In other words, it becomes downright impossible.