As COVID-19 cases dramatically climb — blame the more transmissible Delta variant — America’s vaccination effort is falling flat and leaving health experts worried about what comes next.
According to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 48.2% of the country is fully vaccinated. This number is considered low since multiple vaccines have been available for several months and accessible to all people.
Meanwhile, nearly every state has seen a new surge in COVID-19 cases over the past week.
In states with low vaccination numbers, case rates were three times higher last week compared to states with more people fully vaccinated.
“We’re losing time here. The Delta variant is spreading, people are dying, we can’t actually just wait for things to get more rational,” said Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health via CNN.
Misinformation blamed for low vaccination rates
Confusion about vaccines is one possible reason for so many unvaccinated Americans, according to several officials.
Surgeon General Vivek Murthy issued an advisory on Thursday calling health misinformation an “urgent threat” as Americans struggle to get fully vaccinated.
“It can cause confusion, sow distrust, and undermine public health efforts, including our ongoing work to end the COVID-19 pandemic,” Murthy said in a statement.
The advisory calls on tech and social media companies to fight misinformation on their platforms by adjusting algorithms and adding more security to stop the spread of misinformation.
“I hope people will hear this, right now listening to this: If you are on the fence about whether vaccination is going to help you, listen to those numbers,” Collins said. “Why are we waiting folks? Let’s roll up our sleeves if we haven’t already done so.”
Nearly all hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated
Last week, White House officials said the vast majority of hospitalizations and deaths are occurring among people who are not vaccinated against COVID-19.
“Virtually all Covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths in the United States are now occurring among unvaccinated individuals,” Jeff Zients, White House coronavirus response coordinator, said at a press briefing.
The briefing homed in on areas with low immunization rates where federal officials said they’ve seen more outbreaks. Data from the CDC showed that areas in the Midwest and northern mountain states were struggling with the Delta variant, which now makes up around 80% of new cases in those areas.
Young, unvaccinated people, in particular, are the ones being hospitalized. They have some of the lowest vaccination rates in the country compared to older Americans, according to data. Data from the CDC says fewer than half of people ages 18 to 24 and 25 to 39 are fully vaccinated in the U.S. Children and teens — ages 12 to 18 — have even lower vaccination numbers.