Background: As of 28 July 2021, 60% of adults in the United States had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and more than 34 million cases had been reported. Given the uncertainty regarding undocumented infections, the population level of immunity against COVID-19 in the United States remains undetermined.
Objective: To estimate the population immunity, defined as the proportion of the population that is protected against SARS-CoV-2 infection due to prior infection or vaccination.
Design: Statistical and simulation modeling to estimate overall and age-specific population immunity.
Setting: United States.
Participants: Simulated age-stratified population representing U.S. demographic characteristics.
Measurements: The true number of SARS-CoV-2 infections in the United States was inferred from data on reported deaths using age-specific infection-fatality rates (IFRs). Taking into account the estimates for vaccine effectiveness and protection against reinfection, the overall population immunity was determined as the sum of protection levels in vaccinated persons and those who were previously infected but not vaccinated.
Results: Using age-specific IFR estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it was estimated that as of 15 July 2021, 114.9 (95% credible interval [CrI], 103.2 to 127.4) million persons had been infected with SARS-CoV-2 in the United States. The mean overall population immunity was 62.0% (CrI, 58.4% to 66.4%). Adults aged 65 years or older were estimated to have the highest immunity level (77.2% [CrI, 76.2% to 78.6%]), and children younger than 12 years had the lowest immunity level (17.9% [CrI, 14.4% to 21.9%]).
Limitation: Publicly reported deaths may underrepresent actual deaths.
Conclusion: As of 15 July 2021, the U.S. population immunity against COVID-19 may still have been insufficient to contain the outbreaks and safely revert to prepandemic social behavior.
Primary funding source: National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, Notsew Orm Sands Foundation, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.