Only 20 States and DC Have Met Biden’s July 4 Vaccine Goal. Where Does That Leave Us?

Delta’s rise makes it more crucial that people roll up their sleeves

Photo: Szabo Viktor/Unspash

Although more people are getting the Covid vaccine, the Biden Administration won’t meet its goal of having 70 percent of American adults receive at least one dose of vaccine by July 4 — it will take a few more weeks to reach this level. In communities with high vaccination rates, case counts are falling, businesses are opening safely, and public health measures including mask mandates are being loosened or lifted entirely.

Despite the tremendous decline in Covid cases nationwide, some states are experiencing increases, especially those with lower vaccination rates. The risk-level tracker developed as a collaboration between by our organization, Resolve to Save Lives, and The New York Times, presents vaccination and risk levels by state and by county, reflecting the reality that a two-tiered pandemic is developing.

There are currently pockets in the United States where coronavirus cases have risen sharply — mostly in areas where many people remain unvaccinated. This tells us two things: 1) When people are vaccinated the virus is much less likely to spread, and 2) There are still areas in the United States where Covid remains a threat, particularly to unvaccinated people.

A new analysis by the Associated Press shows that 99 percent of new Covid-related hospitalizations and deaths are among people who are not fully vaccinated. This is why it is so important that every community vaccinates their population as soon as possible.

States that reached Biden’s July 4 vaccination goal

While the nation as a whole will fall short of the Biden Administration’s 70 percent vaccination goal, 20 states and the District of Columbia have already met it: Vermont, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maine, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Maryland, Washington, Illinois, New York, Virginia, California, Washington D.C., Delaware, Minnesota, Colorado, and Oregon.

Here’s what they did right: removed as many barriers to getting vaccinated as possible. For example, providers allowed walk-ins, reduced lengthy registration processes, provided vaccination services at off hours (which helped reach those coming in before or after work), held pop-up clinics at community events, brought mobile clinics to hotspots, and provided transportation to and from vaccine providers, particularly mass sites, when needed. In addition, jurisdictions that proactively worked with community-based organizations and local, trusted leaders to organize and mobilize their communities increased vaccine coverage. States that were a bit slower to open up eligibility seemed to fare better, with fewer registration sites crashing, shorter wait times, and less frustration over limited supply with high demand.

States that still have work to reach Biden’s goal

States with high vaccination rates are generally seeing low and decreasing case rates. In contrast, some states that didn’t reach the vaccination goal are seeing an increase in Covid cases. Compare the five states with the highest vaccination rates, of around 70% (Vermont, Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut, and Rhode Island) with the five states with the lowest vaccination rates, of around 35–40%, (Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Wyoming, and Louisiana). Even with less testing, case rates are much higher in the states with lower vaccination rates (5–15 per 100,000 people compared with less than 1 to 2 per 100,000). All of the five states with low vaccination rates are seeing substantial case increases, with increases of between 23% and 81% just in the past week. In fact, of the 13,000 or so cases a day the US is diagnosing, six states (Florida, Texas, Missouri, Alabama, Nevada, and Arkansas), all with low vaccination rates, are reporting nearly half.

Lack of access in communities of color and rural areas, coupled with vaccine hesitancy propelled by politicization and misinformation, are leading reasons why vaccination rates are so low in some areas.

How we can convince people to accept vaccines

Doctors and others have struggled to persuade younger Americans in particular to get vaccinated despite prizes, lotteries, and other incentives. Nearly a third of the population doesn’t plan on getting vaccinated, many citing beliefs that the virus has been politicized or that previously-infected people retain immunity to the virus.

We must reach these groups, not only by making vaccination as convenient as possible but also by improving communication. It’s important we listen to people in any geographic, demographic, or political-affiliation group with questions about vaccine development, the approval processes, and potential side effects. To increase confidence, we need to get the right messengers and messages out to these populations, ensuring that information comes from trusted health professionals and is not politicized.

If we fail to combat misinformation on vaccines, large parts of the population will remain unvaccinated and the virus will continue to spread. This increases the risk that new and more deadly variants will emerge and spread, possibly with the capacity to escape vaccine-induced immunity.

Many people, known as long haulers, experience health issues — from brain fog to debilitating fatigue — that persist for months. Getting vaccinated is a small step that could make a huge difference for the health of people and their families — and knowing about how bad long Covid can be makes people more likely to consider getting vaccinated.

Another reason to get vaccinated

Although Covid cases have declined in the US, globally, the pandemic is at its worst levels.

As the Delta variant spreads rapidly, it’s targeting those who haven’t yet been vaccinated. It’s likely that this variant will become the predominant strain in the United States within weeks.

The rising threat posed by the Delta variant makes it even more crucial that more people roll up their sleeves to get vaccinated, especially as more of the country continues to reopen. Vaccines currently being used in the US appear to give strong protection against illness, particularly serious illness, from Delta and other variants.

The speed of Delta-fueled increases around the world is troubling; it takes months to get people fully vaccinated. That’s why we need to ramp vaccination up immediately, in as many places as possible.

Although not all states have reached the White House’s July 4 goal, we have the resources we need to vaccinate Americans and crush future spikes. Let’s use them.

Visit the CDC website for updates on Covid safety guidelines and information on how to get vaccinated.