A better approach would be to have a trustworthy person address the root cause of hesitation – fear, suspicion, misunderstanding, easy access, or a desire for more information, said Mary Politi, an expert on health decisions and communication at Washington University in St. Louis.

People often need to see others in their social circle accept something before they’re ready to try, said Dr. Politi. Highlighting the life benefits of vaccination, like seeing a family member or sending their children to school, might be more motivating than the nebulous idea of ​​herd immunity.

“That would resonate more with people than that somewhat elusive concept that experts are still trying to figure out,” she added.

Although children spread the virus less efficiently than adults, all experts agreed that vaccinating children would also be important in keeping the number of Covid cases down. In the long term, the public health system must also take into account babies and children and adults who fall into a higher risk group.

Annoying scenarios remain on the way to this long-term vision.

If enough people are not protected over time, highly contagious variants can develop that can breach vaccine protection, bring people to the hospital, and put them at risk of death.

“This is the nightmare scenario,” said Jeffrey Shaman, an epidemiologist at Columbia University.

How common and how severe these breakthrough infections are may determine whether the United States can keep hospital stays and deaths down, or whether the country is in “maddening turmoil” every few years, he said.

“I think we’re going to look over our shoulders – or at least, public health officials and infectious disease epidemiologists will look over their shoulders and say, ‘Okay, the varieties out there – what are they doing? What can you? ” he said. “Maybe the general public can’t care too much about it again, but we have to.”