Beyond the new normal: Assessing the feasibility of vaccine-based suppression of SARS-CoV-2

PLoS One. 2021 Jul 16;16(7):e0254734. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0254734. eCollection 2021.


As the COVID-19 pandemic drags into its second year, there is hope on the horizon, in the form of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines which promise disease suppression and a return to pre-pandemic normalcy. In this study we critically examine the basis for that hope, using an epidemiological modeling framework to establish the link between vaccine characteristics and effectiveness in bringing an end to this unprecedented public health crisis. Our findings suggest that a return to pre-pandemic social and economic conditions without fully suppressing SARS-CoV-2 will lead to extensive viral spread, resulting in a high disease burden even in the presence of vaccines that reduce risk of infection and mortality. Our modeling points to the feasibility of complete SARS-CoV-2 suppression with high population-level compliance and vaccines that are highly effective at reducing SARS-CoV-2 infection. Notably, vaccine-mediated reduction of transmission is critical for viral suppression, and in order for partially-effective vaccines to play a positive role in SARS-CoV-2 suppression, complementary biomedical interventions and public health measures must be deployed simultaneously.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Basic Reproduction Number
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology
  • COVID-19 / prevention & control*
  • COVID-19 / transmission
  • COVID-19 Vaccines / administration & dosage
  • COVID-19 Vaccines / immunology
  • COVID-19 Vaccines / standards
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Herd
  • Immunogenicity, Vaccine
  • Models, Statistical
  • Mortality / trends
  • SARS-CoV-2 / immunology
  • SARS-CoV-2 / physiology
  • Vaccination / standards
  • Vaccination / statistics & numerical data*


  • COVID-19 Vaccines

Grant support

Fractal Therapeutics provided support in the form of salaries for authors MS and YL, but did not have any additional role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. The specific roles of these authors are articulated in the ‘author contributions’ section.