US far from herd immunity, with less than 10% of adults showing virus antibodies, study shows

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Around 90% of U.S. adults are at risk of contracting COVID-19, according to a new study from Stanford University.

The study was published Friday in the medical journal The Lancet.

Using data from dialysis centers across the nation, researchers found that less than 10% of adults had antibodies against COVID-19 by the end of July — which means that “herd immunity remains out of reach,” the study concluded.

Herd immunity occurs when a significant part of the population becomes immune to an infectious disease.

Those figures match a forthcoming study by the Centers of Disease Control, which should be published in “the next week or so,” according to CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield.

“The preliminary results in the first round show that a majority of our nation, more than 90% of the population, remains susceptible,” Redfield told lawmakers this week during a Senate hearing.

For the Stanford University study, which was funded by Ascend Clinical Laboratories, researchers studied 28,503 patients who received dialysis in July 2020. They found that 8% of those sampled had COVID-19 antibodies, or 9.3% when standardized to the general adult population in the U.S.

Study co-author Julie Parsonnet said in a statement that the study “clearly confirms that despite high rates of COVID-19 in the United States, the number of people with antibodies is still low and we haven’t come close to achieving herd immunity.”

The study also shows that low-income neighborhoods and areas with high numbers of racial minorities showed higher infection rates than white communities.

“We were able to determine — with a high level of precision — differences in seroprevalence among patient groups within and across regions of the United States, providing a very rich picture of the first wave of the COVID-19 outbreak that can hopefully help inform strategies to curb the epidemic moving forward by targeting vulnerable populations,” Shichi Anand, the study’s lead author, said in a statement.

Public health efforts to limit the spread of the virus “need to especially target racial and ethnic minority and densely populated communities,” the researchers concluded.


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