VILNIUS (Reuters) – Lithuania’s president said on Friday the country would receive enough COVID-19 vaccines to inoculate 70% of its population by early July, and that this would achieve herd immunity.
The ambitious supply schedule hinges on vaccines from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson being approved for use in the European Union, in addition to the Pfizer shot already being administered, President Gitanas Nauseda said.
“We received assurances from the European Commission president that Lithuania will be able to vaccinate 70% of population by early summer, because we will receive 4 million vaccines during the first and second quarters,” Nauseda said.
“The challenge is about to change from vaccine shortages to setting up mass vaccinations, so that we use the time optimally and can fully reach collective immunity (by early July). This is the goal we can set for ourselves,” he told reporters.
The World Health Organization has estimated that 60-70% of a population needs to be vaccinated to break transmission.
However, the concept of herd immunity comes with caveats and big demands of what vaccines might be capable of preventing, and some experts say such expectations are misplaced.
Experts point to various still unresolved factors – such as the rate of the spread of the COVID-19-causing virus, whether vaccines can stop transmission or just stop people getting ill, how many people in a population will accept a vaccine, and whether vaccines offer the same protection to everyone.
Nauseda said Lithuania, a Baltic republic of 2.8 million people, will need to vaccinate 10,000 per day by February and up to 35,000 people per day by April to reach the July target.
Between 1,000 and 4,000 people have received the vaccine daily this week, according to government data.
(Reporting by Andrius Sytas; Editing by Mark Heinrich)