Herd immunity: challenges and the way forward in Korea.Epidemiol Health. 2021; 43:e2021054.EH
Vaccination is considered to be the most effective measure for preventing the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Many countries, including of Korea, are focusing on achieving herd immunity with the goal of reaching a vaccination rate of 70-80%. However, achieving herd immunity does not mean eradicating COVID-19, and the following challenges can occur in the process of achieving herd immunity. First, as the vaccination rate is likely to slow down over time, it is necessary to promote the benefits of vaccination through risk communication strategies and provide incentives for those who have been vaccinated. Second, a booster dose may be required depending on future studies on vaccine-induced immunity. Third, since variants capable of evading immunity and with higher transmissibility can emerge, rapid contract tracing and regular community genomic surveillance could help mitigate the impact of new variants. When the impact of COVID-19 is controlled to the level of seasonal influenza, the current public health measures that have been strictly imposed on society since the beginning of the pandemic will no longer be needed. The overall response strategy to COVID-19 will need to change accordingly, based on evaluations of the level of population immunity. These changes will include more efficient and targeted contact tracing and eased quarantine measures for vaccinated close contacts and travelers. Mask wearing and a minimum of social distancing will still be required in the journey towards the end of the pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic will end, but the virus will not disappear.