In the U.S., Covid cases in the Northeast are increasing again, which has some people worried about yet another surge. This is also one of the most heavily vaccinated parts of the country. While the Covid vaccines have been very effective at stopping hospitalization and death, it’s now clear they haven’t ended the pandemic. And yet the scientists I spoke with in the early part of 2021 were nearly unanimous in thinking they would end the pandemic through herd immunity. Why did they get it so wrong?
Two major reasons: First, scientists vastly underestimated the ability of the virus to mutate quickly. And second, they overestimated their ability to tweak the mRNA vaccines into forms that could conquer new variants. But we can learn from our mistakes, and rather than expect the public to “live with the virus” protected by leaky vaccines, scientists need to keep improving our vaccines, possibly exploiting the more than 100 candidates already part or all the way through clinical trials.