- The US has vaccinated more than 31 million people against COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins data.
- That figure surpasses the number of Americans known to have been infected.
- Some 29 million people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the US, more than any other country.
- Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.
The US has reached a pivotal milestone in its effort to contain the novel coronavirus, with more people in the country having been vaccinated than having tested positive for the virus.
According to data from Johns Hopkins University, more than 31 million people in the US had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Tuesday, surpassing the roughly 29 million coronavirus infections the country has recorded.
The metric is a psychologically significant turning point: The largest single number associated with the pandemic is now a measure of success rather than failure.
It has been more than a year since the virus started making ground in the US, first in Seattle and New York City and then spreading around the country.
While the virus was first identified in China, the US came to bear the brunt of the pandemic, having recorded more cases and deaths – 525,816 as of Tuesday – than any other country.
The pandemic has wreaked havoc on American life, with the US unemployment rate more than tripling and gross domestic product last year suffering its worst slump in US history. President Joe Biden is expected to this week sign a massive $US1.9 ($2) trillion coronavirus rescue package, which would include $US1,400 ($1,817) direct payments for most taxpayers and $US300 ($389) weekly federal jobless aid through September.
So far, the US has led the charge on vaccinations, authorizing three COVID-19 vaccines since last fall. When it comes to total vaccines given out, no country comes close to the US, which has fully inoculated more than 31 million people. Israel is in second place, with nearly 4 million people fully vaccinated.
Vaccinating as much of the population as possible is a key step toward achieving so-called herd immunity to the virus. It is the point at which enough people have gained immunity to the virus, either through vaccinations or through having had the virus themselves, that the virus no longer circulates.
Being one of the most populous countries, however, means the US has a long way to go to vaccinate a significant-enough percentage of its population to achieve herd immunity.
The small British territory of Gibraltar tops the list when it comes to total percentage of population vaccinated, at 46.18%. The US falls to ninth place on that list, having vaccinated a little less than 10% of its population.
An analysis last week by CNN found that the US could achieve herd immunity by the summer at its current pace of vaccination.
Government officials are cautioning the public, however, that life may not feel completely normal until next year.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious-disease expert, told LA Times Today last month that “hopefully, by the time we enter 2022, we will have a degree of normality that will approximate the kind of normality we are used to.”
Another element that could throw a wrench in the herd-immunity plan is the coronavirus variants now circulating, including one first found in South Africa that appears to be more resistant to vaccines. Top health experts including Fauci have also warned that a variant first found in the UK could cause another surge in cases in the US.
As more and more Americans are vaccinated against the coronavirus, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention released guidance Monday saying that fully vaccinated people could host small indoor gatherings but must still continue to wear a mask when in public.