More than 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses were reported administered on Aug. 19. The milestone was hit during a six-week period of significant vaccination increases. Despite the good dose of vaccine news those numbers bring, health officials are concerned that it won’t be enough to counter the delta variant’s current impact on hospitals.
The average pace of those initiating vaccination is more than 70% higher than just a month ago, according to CNN. Oklahoma and Louisiana, two states at the bottom of the vaccination rate tally, are now vaccinating at higher rates than the national average.
“We’re seeing a new willingness, a new openness to getting vaccinated,” White House Covid-19 Response Team Chief of Staff Asma Mirza said on Aug. 19 while speaking to Louisiana faith leaders.
Bloomberg added to the good vaccine news, noting that the recent pace of around 500,000 vaccinations per day is “a level last seen at the end of May when the U.S. vaccination campaign was still in full swing in much of the country,” driven in large part by the same Southern states that are experiencing a wave of hospitalizations.
“In an eight-state region that includes Florida, Alabama, Tennessee and North Carolina, about 4,600 people a day are being admitted to the hospital each day,” according to Bloomberg.
Bill Lee, the Republican governor of Tennessee — and a central figure in that state’s recent mask mandate controversies — is now advocating for his state to climb past its current 47% vaccination rate.
“The most important tool we have to fight the pandemic is a vaccine,” Lee said. “I encourage Tennesseans who have not been vaccinated to talk to their doctor to consider getting vaccinated and to make an informed decision.”
CNN’s report noted that “because it takes weeks to gain immunity following full vaccination, even those beginning their inoculations need to remain cautious against infection.” This is particularly true with hospitals around the nation experiencing an influx of patients.
Lauren Meyers, director of the University of Texas COVID-19 Modeling Consortium, warned that Austin-area hospitals are at a “breaking point,” saying, “we are sort of in a very dire situation.”
The Austin American-Statesman corroborated that with an Aug. 20 report noting that the Austin metro area reached a high-water mark for COVID-19 hospitalizations and people requiring ventilators.
Even with the increase in vaccinations, the Biden Administration is looking for other ways to encourage shots among the more reluctant segments of the population. As the New York Times reported, employee vaccination will be a condition moving forward for nursing homes to receive Medicare and Medicaid funding. That move will affect more than 15,000 nursing homes employing 1.3 million workers.
Booster shots, already authorized for those who are immunocompromised, are expected to be available for the general U.S. population on Sept. 20. The Times report noted that decision-makers were “waiting on more data to decide whether the 14 million Americans who received Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine should also receive an additional shot, but suggested that they would be included as well.”