The Biden Administration may fall short of its goal of getting 70% of adults in the nation vaccinated against the coronavirus by July 4th, a campaign for which officials are pushing hard still in hopes of quelling the pandemic that has killed more than 600,000 people in this country.
All signs continue to point to this summer as a major turning point in months of the virus’ toll. New cases, hospitalizations, and deaths across the country have fallen to lows not seen since the earliest days of the pandemic.
The vaccination effort that the administration has hammered on since the beginning of the year has gotten at least one dose in the arms of 176 million Americans as of June 18: 65.1% of adults and 82% of those 65 and older have gotten their shots.
While many parents are racing to get their children who are at least age 12 inoculated, especially so kids can return in the fall to in-person classes, the overall, collective energy in communities across the country for coronavirus vaccines has plunged. That is leaving the administration’s aspiration for 70% adult vaccination close but not quite achieved.
The vaccination gaps
States in the South and intermountain West are lagging in their vaccination rates (see CDC map, above). And, as the Washingon Post reported:
“States with higher vaccination rates now have markedly fewer coronavirus cases, as infections are dropping in places where most residents have been immunized and are rising in many places people have not, a Washington Post analysis has found. States with lower vaccination also have significantly higher hospitalization rates, The Post found. Poorly vaccinated communities have not been reporting catastrophic conditions. Instead, they are usually seeing new infections holding steady or increasing without overwhelming local hospitals … Vaccination is not always even within each state, and The Post found the connection between vaccine shots and coronavirus cases at the local level comparing more than 100 counties with low vaccination rates (fewer than 20% of residents vaccinated) and more than 700 with high vaccination rates (at least 40% vaccinated). Counties with high vaccination had low coronavirus rates that are going down. In counties where few people are vaccinated, not only are there higher case rates, but the number of cases there also is growing.”
Biden has not talked about the potential shots’ shortfall but may be shifting the federal goal to the administration of 300 million vaccinations within the first 150 days of his presidential term.
Risks for the unvaccinated
The unvaccinated — whether reluctant, resistant, or struggling still to access shots — are walking a knife’s edge, especially if they disregard safeguards and act as if they are vaccinated, especially as the country returns to normality, experts have warned.
It might be a reality to which the cartoon character Homer Simpson would opine: Doh! But data from across the country shows that the patients with coronavirus infections serious enough to require hospitalization share one unfortunate, common trait in overpowering fashion: They are unvaccinated.
In the meantime, experts are growing wary of viral variants. With the pandemic unchecked, especially globally, variants are increasing in number and some worry specialists greatly because they appear to spread more easily and cause greater harms, including death.
The Delta variant, which was first identified in India, is growing more common and worrisome in the United States, experts say, noting it has doubled in the United Kingdom hospitalizations caused by the earlier-detected (in Britain) and predominant Alpha strain.
The existing vaccines, especially the two-shot products, have shown high protection against variants, for now. New vaccines also are finishing crucial clinical trials, with a product from the small U.S. firm Novavax showing great promise. A vaccine from Germany’s CureVac maker looks far less effective and useful.
Though experts continue to try to assess whether and how much a Covid-19 infection protects those who survive it from getting sick with the disease again, the illness’ long-term effects have become hugely concerning, especially as doctors see the duration of coronavirus-related health problems, their severity, and how much patients suffer.
In my practice, I see not only the harms that patients suffer while seeking medical services, but also the damages that can be inflicted on them by an array of awful circumstances and things, including:
- dangerous drugs
- risky and defective products
- abuse and neglect in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
- and car, motorcycle, and truck crashes.
In these cases, a crowd of problem people and institutions — these can include doctors, hospitals, insurers, regulators, and politicians — may press victims to move on, settle up, and they fast forget the lonely agony of the suffering. It can, however, take a long time for patients to recover from terrible illness or injury. Harms can last a lifetime. Patients may need medical services, as well as financial and other support for months or years. They also need closure and justice for wrongs done, as well as the sense that they may be able to help others avoid the problems that afflicted them.
We are not done with the coronavirus and the huge trauma it has inflicted on us all. Please get vaccinated. All medical interventions carry risk. But vaccines’ benefits long have been shown to far outweigh their harms.
The divide could not be sadder between the vaccinated and those who aren’t. Deaths from Covid-19 are dipping by the day for now. But that is hard to explain to the heartbroken mourning the hundreds who still die daily from the infection.