RMA has partnered with Oliver Wyman to make timely resources regarding the progress toward ending the pandemic available to members. RMA is hosting Oliver Wyman’s Pandemic Navigator on its website https://pandemicnavigator.oliverwyman.com/rma, and holding a series of webinars to help members utilize the Navigator to learn how scenarios will affect economic and business outcomes. Oliver Wyman is also contributing articles like this one to The RMA Journal and the RMA Industry Insider weekly email newsletter.
1. Putting It All Together: When Will the U.S. Reach the Herd Immunity Threshold?
There are two key questions that matter most in determining when we will reach the herd immunity threshold:
i) How “hot” will we continue to run?
ii) How fast can we produce, distribute, and administer the vaccines?
Our latest analysis, based on a set of assumptions provided in Exhibit 2, suggests we are likely to achieve the possible Herd Immunity Threshold in the U.S. on average as soon as early summer, if vaccination continues to track along our optimistic scenario.
This timeline assumes the sequential easing of restrictions and has implications for planning and decision making. For example, executives should consider whether this timeline changes perspectives on cost and liquidity management as well as rightsizing their services considering disruptions to supply and demand. Further, this timing will vary widely around the United States and globally based on the availability of vaccines and past infections. We expect hard-hit states in the Northeast to reach the pHIT months earlier than states that have not suffered as much, potentially up to six months earlier, as summarized in the chart below.
While our analysis suggests that we will, on average, reach herd immunity threshold in the early summer, we expect to see the benefits of vaccinating elder and vulnerable populations sooner, leading to a significant reduction in the population average infection fatality ratio. As more vulnerable populations become vaccinated, the number of cases leading to hospitalizations or deaths is expected to decrease significantly. The reduced strain on our public health system and death toll may signal behavior to begin trending towards a new “normal” sooner, and restrictions may begin to be lifted before achieving the herd immunity threshold.