The United States is on track to meet President Joe Biden’s goal of getting at least one COVID-19 shot in the arms of 70 percent of adults by July 4 – if the current rate of vaccination is maintained. But demand for vaccines has declined in much of the country in recent weeks, and promising national figures (about 63% of adults have received at least one shot) do not reflect uneven levels across countries.
Even if the country as a whole achieves the national goal, at least 30 countries are unlikely to exist. And a handful are unlikely to reach 70% of the mark before the end of the year, according to an analysis by the New York Times, which potentially prolongs the pandemic.
“You achieve a certain percentage at the national level, which looks great and would really suggest that you are there to reduce the likelihood of infection, but that can be misleading,”
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“You still have these significant pockets and states where immunity levels are much lower,” he added. “So that a new wave can appear.”
In many states in the deep south and mountainous west, vaccinations are equalized due to both limited access and hesitation. Less than half of all adults have received at least one shot in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Wyoming, and forecasts show that speeds are unlikely to reach much higher than 50% by early July.
Public health experts and officials in countries with lower vaccination rates say the president’s benchmark will help reduce cases and deaths, but is somewhat arbitrary – even if 70% of adults are vaccinated, the virus and its more contagious variants may spread among those that are not.
But they are still concerned that their residents are more susceptible to infection as restrictions are reduced across the country, the sense of urgency to get vaccinated decreases and many Americans in warmer climates avoid the heat by going indoors, where the virus spreads more efficiently.
“We have a significant percentage of Louisiana who have initiated, but this is not immunity to the herd,” said Dr. Joseph Canter, Louisiana’s best health worker, in mid-May. “It’s nowhere near.”
“It’s not insignificant, but it’s not state immunity,” he added. “So we are very aware of this and we feel urgent with the vaccination campaign.”
Even figures that look promising can ignore local problem areas, Kanter said. In Louisiana, less than 20% of people in some parishes have received their first dose.
State vaccination levels during previous vaccination campaigns in the United States show some similar patterns.
For example, many southern countries had lower vaccination rates than the rest of the country during the H1N1 pandemic in 2009 and 2010 and in the flu season just before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Experts point to ongoing challenges in this region of the country, including lower-than-average access to health care, especially in rural areas, and higher vaccine variability rates. Politics can also play a role.
“You are also looking at countries that are granting mandates faster,” said Dr. Jody L. Guest, an epidemiologist at Emory University. “Leadership matters. If you set the tone that this is not serious, it is difficult to convince people that it is. “
Officials in lagging countries say they hope they can continue to vaccinate more people, but are wary that it could take months to make inoculations more convenient and convince those who do not want to shoot.
To boost the nation’s progress, the White House has announced an incentive to provide free care for children to parents and caregivers while they are vaccinated.
“I think the question is, are we getting to a place where we’ve just caught up, and we just aren’t going to get that many people,” Plessia said, “or in a lot of these countries it’s going to take longer for people to get vaccinated and we’re going to we continue to make progress, but it will be slow progress. “
“I just don’t know how this will develop,” he added.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
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