To date, only about 18% of the U.S. population has received a coronavirus vaccine. And that means we're a long way off from herd immunity.
But despite a slow initial rollout, there's reason to be hopeful that things will quickly pick up on the vaccine front. Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) recently announced a partnership with Merck (NYSE: MRK) to ramp up production of its single-dose coronavirus vaccine. The two existing vaccine candidates on the market, by contrast, require two separate doses spaced three to four weeks apart, which means there's a greater lag between an initial injection and full-fledged immunity.
The situation has improved so much that President Biden recently made a pretty bold statement: that any American adult who wants a vaccine should be able to get one by the end of May due to adequate supply. That's great news from a public health perspective, and it's also great news for real estate investors.
Here are three positive things that could happen if the mass vaccination timeline is really pushed up as Biden expects.
1. Office buildings could stage a comeback
One year into the pandemic, many Americans are still working from home full time, as employers are hesitant to bring staff back to office buildings. But if vaccines are made available sooner than anticipated, a lot of companies could start bringing employees back to the office as early as this summer, at which point commercial lease renewal activity could also pick up.
2. Small businesses and restaurants could be saved
The pandemic has taken a toll on a large number of small businesses and restaurants, many of which are still being forced to operate at limited capacity due to safety concerns. If coronavirus vaccines are rolled out sooner and COVID-19 case numbers start to drop significantly, many states will likely ease up on restrictions, thereby allowing restaurants to welcome more diners.
Plus, lower COVID-19 numbers may make it possible for more consumers to shop at local businesses or dine indoors without health concerns. The result? Fewer small business and restaurant closures, which is good not just for local property values, but for the commercial landlords who rely on those establishments to pay rent.
3. Hotels could recover more quickly
Hotels took a major beating in 2020, with record-low revenue and occupancy rates. The American Hotel & Lodging Association expects hotel occupancy levels to average just 52% in 2021, an improvement over 2020 but nowhere close to pre-pandemic levels. But if the bulk of the public is vaccinated ahead of the summer travel boom, it could result in an uptick in hotel room bookings -- and pump some much-needed revenue into an industry that's really been struggling.
Hope for the best
In the absence of a crystal ball, it's difficult to anticipate exactly when the act of getting a coronavirus vaccine will boil down to making a simple phone call or logging online to make an appointment without stress. Right now, people are resorting to extreme measures, like staying up all night, just to book a vaccine appointment, even though eligibility is still mostly quite limited.
If vaccine supply really does open up as Biden predicts, it could be a game-changer on the road to bringing the pandemic to an end. And if real estate investors enjoy a breath of fresh air as a very welcome side effect, there's certainly nothing wrong with that.