(20 March 2021) The pace of COVID-19 vaccine distribution is the main unknown in today's macroeconomic forecasts. In a scenario of faster and more effective worldwide vaccination, the global economy is expected to recover to pre-crisis levels sometime in 2021. Delays in vaccination programs, however, could contribute to the persistence of economic constraints in some countries and sectors, slowing the recovery of the world economy overall.

Using data on population, COVID-19 cases, and vaccination progress, we analyze how far the 20 largest economies are from herd immunity today.

  • To estimate the distance to herd immunity, we employed two hypotheses on what percentage of the "true" number of cases the officially identified cases represent. The optimistic hypothesis is that only 20% of COVID-19 cases are detected. This would mean that the "true" number of people who have already been infected is five times higher than the number of documented cases. Under the pessimistic hypothesis, we assume that 80% of the total "true"  cases have been identified.
  • If herd immunity occurs when 70% of the population is infected or vaccinated, as many experts assume, Israel is the only country today that has reached herd immunity under either hypothesis.
  • The US and UK are very close to the 70% threshold for herd immunity under the more optimistic hypothesis (that official COVID-19 data doesn't include 80% of true coronavirus cases). Under the pessimistic hypothesis, however, both countries still need to vaccinate many more people before they will attain herd immunity. Besides the US and the UK, no other economies among the top 20 have more than 50% of their population protected through vaccination or infection, even under the optimistic hypothesis.
  • Some experts theorize that herd immunity will occur when 30% of a population has been infected or vaccinated. In this case, Brazil, France, Italy, Spain, and Poland would now have herd immunity under the hypothesis that only 20% of actual cases have been identified.

Coronavirus Data and Insights

Live data and insights on Coronavirus around the world, including detailed statistics for the US, EU, and China — confirmed and recovered cases, deaths, alternative data on economic activities, customer behavior, supply chains, and more.

Last updated: 

Are you sure you want to delete this page?

Are you sure you want to delete this document?

Unable to delete the page because it has shortcuts referencing it at the following locations:

    Please delete these shortcuts first, then delete page itself.