To defeat covid-19, we may well have to have to vaccinate everyone, or as close to everyone as we can. That kind of vaccination campaign — the kind that could really make everything go back to normal — is going to take a vast, coordinated public effort on a scale that we may not have seen since the United States rolled out draft cards and ration books during World War II.

That’s not yet commonly understood, because most people think of a vaccine as an individual benefit: You get a shot, or maybe a series of them, and then you’re immune. And yes, vaccines often do work that way. But the protection they provide is imperfect…

So people who are imagining that as soon as we get a vaccine they can get a shot and go on with their lives need to be aware of the real risk that we get a vaccine fairly quickly, but it’s only modestly effective. Moreover, its effectiveness would be particularly modest in the people we are most eager to protect: the elderly and immunocompromised. Which means that we need to have plans now to get everyone immunized, so that everyone can safely go outside.

The logistics alone are daunting.