The slowing Covid-19 vaccination rate is worrying experts. Here’s what some states are doing to change the trend
As the US may miss a vaccination goal set by President Joe Biden for July 4, officials are warning against complacency and states are ramping up measures to encourage reluctant residents to get a Covid-19 vaccine.
The country was averaging just more than 1 million Covid-19 vaccine doses administered per day as of Friday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s down from a peak average in early April of 3.3 million per day.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Friday that the best way for the country to avoid Covid-19 surges and further economic pain is to get vaccinated.
“It ain’t over ’til it’s over — and it is not over yet,” Fauci said at an event hosted by US Health and Human Services.
Complacency, he said, could lead to “another surge — particularly with variants floating around — that could set us back to the time when we had to shut down things.”
Communities and regions with low vaccination rates still may be prime candidates for outbreaks, experts have said, and could pose risks not just for unvaccinated adults, but also for children who aren’t yet eligible to be vaccinated or just became eligible.
And because the virus mutates, “I worry about not just (unvaccinated) people continuing to be vulnerable to infection, but what the nature of those infections may be as we’re seeing new variants come online,” Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, a CNN contributor, epidemiologist and former health commissioner for Detroit, said Saturday.
A recent CNN analysis of CDC data found that the US is on pace to fall short of the Biden administration’s goal of getting 70% of the country’s adults to receive at least one dose by July 4.
About 63.2% of US adults had at least one dose as of Friday morning, according to the CDC. Were the country to maintain its current pace, the US wouldn’t hit the 70% target until mid-to-late July.
Twelve states have already met Biden’s one-dose goal: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont.
As the country pushes for more vaccinations, evidence has mounted that the mass vaccination programs have helped to push daily infections and deaths lower.
The US has averaged about 14,300 new cases a day over the last week, down from around 71,300 daily in mid-April, according to Johns Hopkins University data. That’s also well below the country’s peak average, above 250,000 daily reached in early January, according to Johns Hopkins.
Nearly 170 million people in the US — just over half of the country’s total population — have received at least one dose of vaccine, and about 137.5 million people — 41.4% of the population — are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
Incentives for vaccines continue
A multitude of states and companies in the last month have hoped to create demand for vaccines by awarding prizes to those inoculated.
The latest is Hawaii, which is offering a variety of donated prizes, including vacation packages and airline miles, to help reach vaccination milestones as soon as possible.
“The last 15 or 16 months have been a very difficult time for our tourism sector,” said Hawaiian Airlines president and CEO Peter Ingram.
Hawaii, which has maintained some of the toughest travel restrictions throughout the pandemic, is beginning to loosen rules on air travel, dropping its testing and quarantine requirements for people flying between the Hawaiian islands starting June 15. All pandemic restrictions will be lifted once the full vaccination rate reaches 70%, the state announced.
“We need to push hard now so we can get to the point where Safe Travels is no longer needed to keep the people of Hawaii safe,” Gov. David Ige said Friday.
In Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear announced the state’s new Covid-19 vaccine incentive which will give vaccinated adults “a shot at a million dollars,” he said.
“In the coming weeks, three vaccinated Kentuckians, 18 years or older, will become millionaires,” Beshear said Friday, adding that 15 Kentuckians ages 12 to 17 will win full scholarships to a state public college, university, or technical or trade school.
More than 2 million Kentuckians have already been vaccinated, but Beshear anticipates “a significant increase” following Friday’s announcement, he said.
In Colorado, Gov. Jared Polis presented Sally Sliger with a super-sized check for $1 million as the winner of the first drawing in the state’s ‘Comeback Cash’ initiative.
Sliger said she is a lifelong resident of Colorado and currently lives in the town of Mead with her husband and two children.
“The odds of me and my family being given one million dollars overnight seemed impossibly small,” Sliger said, encouraging everyone to get vaccinated for the freedom provided. “It was surreal, of course.”
Protecting children remains a focus
As vaccines continue to go into the arms of eligible teens and adults, health officials remain concerned about the safety of children. Only those ages 12 years and older are currently eligible to receive a Covid-19 vaccine in the US — and children ages 12-15 became eligible only last month.
The increase might be related to more transmissible coronavirus variants, large numbers of children returning to school and other indoor activities, and changes in physical distancing, mask-wearing and other prevention behaviors, researchers wrote.
This is a reminder that children “can still suffer and be hospitalized by this virus,” Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said Friday.
“We had this notion, initially, that this was just a disease of older people. It’s not true. This virus can also hurt children,” Offit told CNN’s Jake Tapper.
Because of this, bans on school mask mandates in states like Texas are irresponsible and could result in more children getting sick, Offit said.
“To have those kinds of rules which only promote the spread of this virus — which only promote more children getting sick — is just nonsensical,” he said.
The CDC says vaccinated people may stop wearing masks in most cases, but unvaccinated people should continue to use them.
The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC), on which Offit sits, is set to meet on June 10 to discuss what the FDA should consider in either authorizing or approving the use of coronavirus vaccines in children under 12.
Both Moderna and Pfizer are running trials for their vaccines in children ages 11 and under.
CNN’s Jason Hanna, Deidre McPhillips, Lauren Mascarenhas, Michael Nedelman, Andy Rose, Melissa Alonso, Naomi Thomas and Hannah Sarisohn contributed to this report.
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