Story at a glance
- Four months after COVID-19 vaccines were authorized for use, all American adults are now eligible for a vaccine.
- Despite stories of long waiting lists in some parts of the country, others are closing vaccination sites due to a lack of demand.
- Public health experts are concerned about the lack of willingness to be vaccinated, threatening herd immunity.
One year after the coronavirus pandemic shut down the United States, all Americans are eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, and the country is slowly reopening. Good news, right?
Not so fast, warn public health experts, noting that just one-quarter of the country is fully vaccinated against the rapidly mutating virus and less than half have received even one dose of a vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All Americans older than 16 became eligible for a vaccine on April 19, weeks before President Biden’s initial goal of May 1, but just as the country’s supply of doses is catching up, some parts of the country are reporting decreased demand.
BREAKING NEWS ON THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC
“It still remains a priority for us to vaccinate as many individuals as possible. We have to think of new and innovative ways to reach individuals who have not been vaccinated so we are shifting some of our resources to more targeted initiatives,” Donna Skoda, health commissioner of Summit County Public Health in Ohio, told WKYC about the county's decision to shut a mass vaccination clinic.
Just less than two-thirds of the country has expressed a willingness to be inoculated against COVID-19, according to recent polls, with about 30 percent of Americans saying they intend to get the vaccine as soon as possible — 32 percent are already vaccinated. Another 17 percent said they would wait and see, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey, and 7 percent said they would only get a vaccine if required — leaving 13 percent who refuse to be vaccinated.
“Federal, state, and local officials, and the private sector, will face the challenge of having to figure out how to increase willingness to get vaccinated among those still on the fence, and ideally among the one-fifth of adults who have consistently said they would not get vaccinated or would do so only if required. Now that supply has increased and eligibility has expanded, it will take a concerted effort to reach a sufficient level of vaccination for herd immunity, and to do so in a way that achieves equity goals as well," said the KFF in a release.
Public health efforts have been warning against the rise of the anti-vaccination movement in the last year and despite some efforts from tech companies, misinformation is spreading rapidly online. While Black and Indigenous Americans have historical reasons to mistrust the medical community, efforts to reach disenfranchised populations have been successful. Still, without increased willingness to be vaccinated, the country will be slow to reach herd immunity, meaning the risk of another outbreak is just around the corner.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CORONAVIRUS RIGHT NOW