Will an imperfect vaccine curtail the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S.?

Enahoro A. Iboi, Calistus N. Ngonghala, Abba B. Gumel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

129 Scopus citations


The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) that emerged from Wuhan city of China in late December 2019 continue to pose devastating public health and economic challenges across the world. Although the community-wide implementation of basic non-pharmaceutical intervention measures, such as social distancing, quarantine of suspected COVID-19 cases, isolation of confirmed cases, use of face masks in public, contact tracing and testing, have been quite effective in curtailing and mitigating the burden of the pandemic, it is universally believed that the use of a vaccine may be necessary to effectively curtail and eliminating COVID-19 in human populations. This study is based on the use of a mathematical model for assessing the impact of a hypothetical imperfect anti-COVID-19 vaccine on the control of COVID-19 in the United States. An analytical expression for the minimum percentage of unvaccinated susceptible individuals needed to be vaccinated in order to achieve vaccine-induced community herd immunity is derived. The epidemiological consequence of the herd immunity threshold is that the disease can be effectively controlled or eliminated if the minimum herd immunity threshold is achieved in the community. Simulations of the model, using baseline parameter values obtained from fitting the model with COVID-19 mortality data for the U.S., show that, for an anti-COVID-19 vaccine with an assumed protective efficacy of 80%, at least 82% of the susceptible US population need to be vaccinated to achieve the herd immunity threshold. The prospect of COVID-19 elimination in the US, using the hypothetical vaccine, is greatly enhanced if the vaccination program is combined with other interventions, such as face mask usage and/or social distancing. Such combination of strategies significantly reduces the level of the vaccine-induced herd immunity threshold needed to eliminate the pandemic in the US. For instance, the herd immunity threshold decreases to 72% if half of the US population regularly wears face masks in public (the threshold decreases to 46% if everyone wears a face mask).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)510-524
Number of pages15
JournalInfectious Disease Modelling
StatePublished - 2020


  • COVID-19
  • Non-pharmaceutical intervention
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Social distancing
  • Vaccination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Applied Mathematics


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