Wary of overpromising but eager to answer the year-old “When will things get back to normal?” question, President Joe Biden laid out his prediction for when life will become normal again during a town hall on CNN last night.
“As my mother would say, with the grace of God and the goodwill of the neighbors, that by next Christmas I think we’ll be in a very different circumstance, God willing, then we are today,” Biden told Anderson Cooper. “A year from now, I think that there’ll be significantly fewer people having to be socially distanced, having to wear a mask.”
The closest simulacrum for normality is herd immunity, which occurs when a large portion of a community becomes immune to a disease and the spread of that disease from person to person becomes unlikely. There are two ways to get there—natural infections and vaccinations—and given the widespread death inherent in the former Biden is pushing the latter hard.
“By the end of July we’ll have over 600 million doses, enough to vaccinate every single American,” Biden said at the beginning of last night’s event. Cooper followed up with a clarifying question about whether Biden was talking about if those doses would be available or if 300 million Americans will have been vaccinated by then.
“They’ll be available,” Biden responded, staying consistent with his comment last week that getting to herd immunity during the summer “is very difficult.”
Some back of the napkin math reveals that the 300 million Americans who could be vaccinated with those 600 million doses added to the 27.8 million, as of today, who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 is pretty damn close to the 330 million-ish people who live in the United States. And even when you account for those who’ve recovered from COVID-19 and received the vaccine, those numbers would put the U.S. well over the approximately 70 percent of the population who need to be immune to a disease in order to reach herd immunity.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden’s chief medical advisor, said on Tuesday that vaccines would be available to the general public (as opposed to the current situation of access restricted to those at higher risk) by early June.
So in Biden’s world, general availability precedes getting enough vaccines by the end of summer, a fall in which everyone gets vaccinated, and a Christmas that’s a lot more normal. Could it happen? The answer is, nearly as always: Maybe! A lot has to go right, and Biden’s presidency will largely be judged on how accurate last night’s prediction turns out to be. So we’ll hold our breaths and hope for the best.