With COVID-19 infection rates beginning to return to pre-omicron levels, is the U.S. any closer to reaching herd immunity?
Experts say it's not likely that the highly transmissible variant — or any other variant — will lead to herd immunity.
"Herd immunity is an elusive concept and doesn't apply to coronavirus," Dr. Don Milton at the University of Maryland School of Public Health told The Associated Press.
Herd immunity is when enough of a population becomes immune to a particular infection that it's hard for the germ to spread even to those who aren't protected by vaccination or a prior infection.
Early hopes of herd immunity against the coronavirus faded for several reasons, including new variants, waning immunity and vaccine hesitancy.
Studies have also shown that while vaccines have proven to be extremely effective against severe illness, their protection against infection wanes over time. That means the virus can still replicate and potentially spawn new variants.
There's also a wide variance in vaccine distribution. According to the AP, some low-income countries have vaccinated as few as 5% of their population.
Many scientists believe COVID-19 will eventually become like the flu, causing seasonal outbreaks but not huge surges.