Here’s how long it will take for the worst-performing states to reach the 70% vaccine mark

worst covid vaccine states mississippi alabama wyoming louisiana
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A combination of limited access and vaccine hesitancy is keeping a number of states well off the 70% vaccination goals that President Joe Biden set for the United States. That’s concerning a number of public health officials regarding its impact on COVID-19 and its vaccine, including those where percentages rank lowest among all states.

A New York Times article published June 3 shows that 63% of American adults had gotten at least one dose of a two-dose vaccine, roughly putting the nation on pace for Biden’s goal of 70% vaccinated by July 4. However, a number of states are behind that benchmark vaccination rate, with 30 of the 50 states likely to be under 70% by Independence Day.

In particular, a number of areas in the South and Mountain West are lagging behind, and many of them are among the worst COVID vaccine states. “Fewer than half of all adults have received at least one shot in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Wyoming, and projections show that the rate is unlikely to reach much higher than 50% by early July,” the Times reported.

As of June 3, Alabama and Mississippi were the worst COVID vaccine states in the nation by different metrics: Alabama had 46% percent of its adults vaccinated, with a seven-day vaccination average of 45 per 100,000, while Mississippi had 44% percent of its adults vaccinated, with a seven-day vaccination average of 55 per 100,000. At that rate, it would take both states more than a year to get to the 70% threshold.

Wyoming was just above those two states, with 47% vaccinated and a 74 per 100,000 seven-day average vaccination rate, placing it on a 10-month trajectory to 70%. Louisiana, with 46% vaccinated, had a better vaccination rate with 109 per 100,000, but it would still take seven months to get to 70% should those rates continue.

Three states—North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Tennessee—are on six-month trajectories to reach 70%, while the three states rounding out the bottom ten—Arkansas, Missouri, and North Carolina—are on five-month paths to 70%, even though all of them were over the 50% mark in early June.

Meanwhile, 12 states—including California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont—have already surpassed the 70% mark, with eight states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico looking to be on target for Biden’s goal.

“We’ve got a significant percentage of Louisiana that has initiated, but it’s not herd immunity,” Dr. Joseph Kanter, that state’s top health official, said in mid-May. “It’s nowhere close to it. … So we’re very cognizant of that, and we feel great urgency with the vaccine campaign.”

Kanter added that in some parishes, less than 20% of the population received the first dose, indicating the potential for localized hot spots should another wave of COVID-19 emerge.

The Alabama Department of Public Health, as reported by Alabama Public Radio, noted that the number of people getting vaccinated as summer approaches is about equal to the number in January when vaccine supplies were sparse.

On May 20, the state announced it was closing down one of its largest mass vaccination sites, UAB’s drive-up clinic at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium, because of dwindling demand. The site delivered as many as 2,400 vaccines a day when it first opened in February.

“Mississippi had already narrowed an outsize gap in COVID-19 incidence and mortality rates for its Black residents, leveraging community partnerships to promote masks and physical distancing while dispelling rumors,” according to U.S. News and World Report, on the racial disparity contributing to the state’s overall low numbers. “Now health advocates hope to stretch those partnerships to help ensure vaccines reach all Mississippians equally.”

A mid-May survey from the Mississippi State Health Department, polling 11,000 state residents across all 82 counties between December 2020 and March 2021, found that while 73% said they were likely to get vaccinated, the numbers who’d gotten at least one dose were far less. The survey also found just 56% of Black Mississippians intended to get vaccinated, compared with 80% of white Mississippians.

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Sources: New York Times, Alabama Public Radio, U.S. News

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