As the delta variant spreads, U.S. vaccination rates are increasing

vaccination rates increasing
Photo via Bryan Alexander/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Whether it’s correlation or causation, the delta variant-triggered rise in cases and hospitalizations now appears to be accompanied by increasing vaccination rates in the U.S. With 816,203 doses administered on July 31 alone, that makes five straight days that national vaccination doses passed the 700,000 mark.

According to CDC data as of Aug. 1, nearly half the U.S. population—49.6%, or 168.4 million people, are fully vaccinated. Of those who are actually vaccine-eligible, Americans who are 12 and over, 58.1% are now fully vaccinated.

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said, “This may be a tipping point for those who have been hesitant to say, ‘OK, it’s time.’ I hope that’s what’s happening. That’s what desperately needs to happen if we’re going to get this delta variant put back in its place.”

Jen Kates, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, observed that the stark contrast in hospitalizations and deaths between the vaccinated and unvaccinated have become clear in recent weeks and might be convincing people on the fence about getting the shots, according to CNBC.

The overwhelming majority of serious COVID-19 cases—97% of hospital admissions and 99.5% of deaths—involve unvaccinated people.

“Cases are rising, and almost all of those who are hospitalized and dying are unvaccinated,” she said. “The data are right there, and I think people are realizing that vaccines are our best bet at controlling this.”

Though there’s been a recent wave of people getting inoculated that the Biden administration finds encouraging in its quest for increasing vaccination rates, it’s also concerned about media coverage of breakthrough infections. The administration is worried that this kind of media coverage could possibly dissuading some from getting jabbed.

“The media’s coverage doesn’t match the moment,” one official said, according to the Guardian. “It has been hyperbolic and frankly irresponsible in a way that hardens vaccine hesitancy. The biggest problem we have is unvaccinated people getting and spreading the virus.”

One example cited was an NBC News report on more than 125,000 breakthrough cases in the U.S.—even though the story prominently noted that the number was “less than .08 percent of the 164.2 million-plus people fully vaccinated since January.”

But the Guardian article also reported significant upticks in vaccination rates in states where vaccination rates have been among the lowest in the nation. Louisiana has had a 114% increase in shots, Arkansas a 96% increase, Alabama 65%, and Missouri 49%.

Public officials in at least one of those states are signaling a heightened state of alarm that could be driving vaccinations. In Arkansas, Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) reimposed a state of emergency on July 29, in part because all pediatric intensive care beds in the state were occupied. As the Guardian noted, “He has sought to dispel fears that the vaccines are a ‘bioweapon.’”

“We have had to bring in more vaccine,” said Robert Ator, overseeing that state’s vaccination effort. “For the first time in two and a half months, we are making a new large-scale order. People are scared.”

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Sources: CNN, CNBC, Guardian, NBC News

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