Vaccinating enough of the population to achieve “herd immunity,” considered to be between 70 percent and 90 percent, is crucial to saving millions of lives. The progress of the vaccination effort, however, isn’t a straightforward exercise.
Projections for vaccinating 70 percent of the eligible population have ranged from late June to November. At the current rate of vaccination, 70 percent of the population 16 years and older are scheduled to be vaccinated by July 16; 90 percent will have received shots by Sept. 12.
“Estimating a date for herd immunity is a public health and demographic challenge,” said Andrew P. Beveridge, Social Explorer’s co-founder and president. “But it’s absolutely essential for policymakers to have accurate data so we can answer the important question of how many Americans have been vaccinated – and how many still need to be protected against COVID.”
The analysis by the Times and Social Explorer used vaccination data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. From a demographic standpoint, calculating the percentage of vaccinated population was complicated by the age ranges provided by the Census Bureau.
The latest data available, the 2015-19 American Community Survey, only includes certain age ranges, such as the population between 15 and 17 years old. The Census Bureau provides population estimates within individual age ranges, but the most recent data were released in June 2020 and only include the population as of July 1, 2019 – almost eight months before the pandemic began sweeping across the U.S.
Social Explorer’s calculations also include population counts for the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands, as well as a trio of nations – Micronesia, Palau and the Marshall Islands – that are part of financial assistance agreements signed with the U.S. government.
“It’s absolutely essential that our policy decisions be informed with accurate, timely data,” Beveridge said. “Social Explorer is proud that our data can be used to shed light and end a very dark period in our nation’s history.”
Social Explorer was founded in 1999 by Andrew Beveridge and Ahmed Lacevic, executive vice president. The company, which specializes in presenting complex data that can be analyzed with easy-to-use visual mapping tools, employs a diverse team of engineers, designers and data scientists spread across two continents. Social Explorer is used by millions of people in education, media, business and government to help make faster, smarter, and better decisions.