Nurse Darryl Hana gives a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to a person at a three-day vaccination clinic at the Providence Wilmington Wellness and Activity Center on July 29, 2021 in Wilmington, California.
Mario Tama | Getty Images
The pace of US vaccinations is picking up again as the Delta variant leads to a new surge in coronavirus cases in the US, especially in states with the lowest vaccination rates and worst outbreaks.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that nearly 800,000 shots were recorded nationwide on Sunday, the highest total in a day in weeks. The 7-day average of reported vaccinations, including first and second vaccinations, rose by 16% over the past week to 615,000 vaccinations per day (as of Thursday).
The stark contrast in hospital stays and deaths between vaccinated and unvaccinated people has become evident in recent weeks and could convince people on the fence to get the syringes, said Jen Kates, senior vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation. The overwhelming majority of severe Covid cases – 97% of hospital admissions and 99.5% of Covid deaths – occur in those who are not vaccinated, US health officials say.
“Cases are on the rise and almost everyone who is hospitalized and dies is not vaccinated,” she said. “The data is right there and I think people are realizing that vaccines are our best bet to control this.”
The number of first doses of vaccines has risen faster than the overall rate in the past few days, meaning new people are getting their very first vaccinations. According to the CDC, an average of about 390,000 first doses were given daily for the past seven days, 31% more than a week ago.
“That’s the marker you want to see – the first doses are going up,” Kates said, because it represents new people getting their first shots. This includes people receiving a first vaccination with the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
The pace of daily vaccinations remains far from peak, with more than 3 million daily vaccinations (both doses counted) reported in mid-April. But the upward trend in first doses is encouraging, officials say.
Forty-eight states and the District of Columbia reported increases in average daily first doses compared to the previous week, up from 37 states with increasing first dose rates a week ago.
States with the worst outbreaks see the biggest jumps in vaccination rates, a CNBC analysis of data from the CDC and Johns Hopkins University shows. In the 10 states with the highest average daily new cases per capita, first doses increased 46% week-to-week, significantly higher than the 31% national increase. This group consists of Louisiana, Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Missouri, Alabama, Nevada, Oklahoma, Alaska, and Georgia.
“Y’all, we’re going to have a tough couple of weeks,” said Dr. Mississippi state health officer Thomas Dobbs told reporters last week. The state has only fully vaccinated 34.4% of its population, compared to 49.4% of the total US population.
“Delta hits us very hard. We expect we will continue to put additional pressure on the health system, ”he said, noting that there were 13 hospitals across the state with“ zero intensive care beds ”. The breakout there is a strong argument for getting the shots. About 93% of the state’s Covid cases and 89% of deaths in the past month were unvaccinated, he said.
The Delta variant is spreading across the country, causing new spikes in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, especially in states with poor vaccination records. It is significantly more contagious than the original variety. And unlike the ancestral Covid strain, it is just as easily transmitted from both unvaccinated and fully vaccinated people who have contracted the virus, federal health officials have warned.
Many of the states that have seen dramatic increases in vaccination rates have high community infection rates and low vaccination rates. Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia are among the top 10 least vaccinated states in the country.
State health officials attribute the rising rates to a combination of factors, including fears of the more contagious Delta variant.
“Last week we doubled the number of people who initiated the vaccine,” said Dr. Joseph Kanter, medical director of the Louisiana Department of Health, told reporters in a call hosted Thursday by the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. “And this week we are well on the way to double that number again. So we are well on the way to quadruple our vaccination rate within two weeks.”
In Alabama, first doses rose 62% to about 7,400 a day in the past week. It has the fifth lowest vaccination rate in the country among people 12 years and older, while its outbreak, which averages 35 new cases per day per 100,000 population, is the sixth worst in the US
Alabama Health Officer Dr. Karen Landers said concerns about the Delta variant, along with educational efforts and partnerships with local leaders, were the likely reasons for the increased interest in the jab.
“We continue to emphasize the importance of getting vaccinated and we know that the increase in variants, and certainly the delta variant, is more contagious,” she said. “We have the feeling that more and more people understand this need.”
Still, Landers said, misinformation about vaccines is slowing progress. Many people don’t understand the drug approval process and wait for the FDA to give the vaccines full approval before receiving the syringes. Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines have all been granted temporary emergency approvals and are awaiting final approval.
“We know that many of our employees in Alabama are still not listening to the information we provide regarding scientific evidence,” she said. “We must continue to fight misinformation in our state.”
Conspiracy theories have also run amok and hampered vaccination efforts in neighboring Mississippi, local health officials say.
“We hear everything from the microchip insertion to the depopulation plan, which uses the vaccine to magnetize people. I mean, you name it, we heard it,” said Dr. Dan Edney, chief medical officer for the Mississippi Department of Health, told reporters last week.
An analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation released in early July shows that the vaccine rate gap between counties that voted for President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump has widened as the vaccine rolled out, with Democrats much more common report that they were vaccinated Republicans.
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey recently joined Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former White House press secretary and Arkansas gubernatorial candidate Sarah Huckabee Sanders in a growing chorus of Republican figures who have been voting in recent days asked to be vaccinated.
“It is time to blame the unvaccinated people, not the normal people. It’s the unvaccinated people who are failing us, ”Ivey said last week.
A health care worker at a drive-through location established by Miami-Dade and Nomi Health in Tropical Park prepares to administer a COVID-19 vaccine in Miami, Florida on July 26, 2021.
Joe Raedle | Getty Images
State health officials in Texas, where the proportion of the eligible population with a vaccination is about 5 percentage points below the US level of 66.9%, say the danger of the Delta variant is pushing people to get vaccinated. According to Johns Hopkins data, the state’s average daily case numbers rose 72% over the past week.
“We have seen increases in vaccine doses over the past few weeks,” wrote Chris Van Deusen, director of media relations for the Texas Department of State Health Services, in an email. “We’ve talked a lot about how serious the situation is with the Delta variant as cases and hospitalizations increase, and people seem to get the news.”
California saw a 16% weekly increase in the number of people getting their first dose of vaccine, Governor Gavin Newsom told reporters Monday, including an increase in the vulnerable zip codes “hardest hit by this pandemic”.
“In part because of the Delta and increases in the number of cases and hospital admissions, we are now seeing increased interest in the Covid vaccination in select areas and states,” said Dr. Arthur Reingold, epidemiology director at the University of California, Berkeley.
Officials hope the trend will continue as governments and companies increase pressure on employees and customers to get the shots.
The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs requires that all health care workers working in Veterans Health Administration facilities be fully vaccinated against Covid vaccinations. Governors in California and New York last week announced plans to mandate vaccines for state employees or to have strict health protocols. Biden put forward a similar federal policy on Thursday, urging governors to offer $ 100 payments to people who receive their first doses of vaccine. Google was one of the first major employers to say it will make vaccines mandatory for anyone who returns to the office this fall.