Thursday marked a major milestone in the U.S. COVID-19 vaccination campaign: 200 million shots fired during President Biden’s first 100 days in office. More than 40% of the American population now has at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
But over the past week, the average number of reported vaccines a day began to decline. Last week, the U.S. made an average of about 3.3 million shots a day. This week, that figure dropped to around 3 million shots a day.
Each of these dams takes us one step further towards the end of the pandemic in the US. The slow pace, however, is a warning sign that we are reaching a turning point where the supply of COVID-19 vaccines will exceed demand. It’s already happening in some places: states have vaccine vials, but people don’t sign up for open appointments.
We get to this point because almost everyone who is most eager to get vaccinated has already been shot, according to a report from the Kaiser Family Foundation released this week. Surveys in late March found that 61 percent of U.S. adults wanted to get vaccinated as soon as possible, about 157 million people. We only have about 27 million people left before we reach that number, which according to the report could happen in a few weeks.
“Once this happens, efforts to encourage vaccination will be much more difficult, which will pose a challenge to achieving the herd’s immunity levels that are expected to be needed,” the report said.
Experts warned from the start of the pandemic that it would be a struggle to vaccinate everyone. A pocket of people in the US is skeptical of all vaccines. For some people, the rapid development and deployment of the COVID-19 vaccine seemed worrisome; for others, the politicization of the pandemic means they don’t believe the virus is a problem enough to go shoot.
Reaching some of these people will be harder than others. There is a group of hardline anti-fascists who will probably never get the shot, or at least for a long time. People who identify as Republicans are more likely to fall into this category. Regardless of the outreach strategies used by doctors and officials, this group of people is likely to reject the shot.
But an important part of people who are not particularly so eagerly to get the vaccine, say they will probably get it, they just don’t actively follow it. This group does not want to be the first in line; they want to wait and see before they roll up their sleeves. With some effort and creativity, it is possible to get them on board. Changing tactics will be needed. Officials may provide the vaccine by offering appointments for the visit. Communities can offer incentives, such as bars and restaurants in New Orleans that hold “shot for shot” events. People who have questions about the vaccine may prefer to get it at their doctor’s office rather than a vaccination site; talking to a trusted doctor is a powerful way to overcome hesitation.
“As long as there are places with more supply than demand, there will be more work to be done on demand,” said Marc Lipsitch, a Harvard epidemiologist. Politician. “If a strategy just works, which I think is the case, we could do better by experimenting with different approaches.”
Finding a way to keep pace with vaccinations and get shots available in the arms is the next public health challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic. As each person gets vaccinated, they are safer and their world expands. But they also begin to be able to protect others; vaccines make them less likely to carry and spread the virus as well.
As the number of people vulnerable to capture is reduced, the virus has fewer routes to travel from person to person. At some point, once most pathways are blocked by protected people, it will be much more difficult for the virus to spread, a milestone called herd immunity. It is still not entirely clear what this threshold is for this pandemic. The virus is still very new. But some experts think that between 70 and 80 percent of people in a population need to be vaccinated before herd immunity begins.
That is why ending the pandemic is not individual, it is collective. In order to reduce the risk of COVID-19 for everyone, we need to encourage as many people as possible.
This is what happened most this week.
We are turning COVID-19 into a disease of young people
As more and more adults are vaccinated, the proportion of young people taking COVID-19 increases. (Sarah Zhang /The Atlantic)
Doctors are testing a prescription video game to detect COVID-19 as “brain fog”
An FDA-approved video game is being tested to treat “brain fog” in people who have recovered from COVID-19. (Nicole Wetsman /The Verge)
Shots in Little Arms: When can children get the vaccine?
Vaccines are not yet licensed for children under the age of 16 in the U.S., leaving many families wondering when their children will be vaccinated. This article lists some frequently asked questions on the subject. (Paola Rosa-Aquino /Intelligence)
The CDC director recommends that pregnant women receive COVID-19 vaccines
A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine examined 35,000 pregnant women who had received the COVID-19 vaccine and found that the vaccines were safe for both parents and children. (Rachel Treisman /NPR)
What we are learning from the rare cases of COVID-19 in vaccinated people
A very small number of people who get vaccinated still take COVID-19. This is what researchers learn from these cases. (Nicole Wetsman /The Verge)
The CDC committee supports Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine
A CDC advisory committee recommended the government lift the Johnson & Johnson vaccine break, considering the benefits of the vaccine far outweighed the very small risk of a complex clotting disorder. (Nicole Wetsman /The Verge)
The inoculation process has been transformed into a fashionable choice that is made with the tongue; a plastered Band-Aid on the shoulder is the hottest trend of the summer. We’ve all experienced an eternity of fashionable skirmishes: boxers versus writings, Coca-Cola versus Pepsi, Nintendo versus Sega, but nothing has a candle until 2021 and our appointment for a subdermal serum that produces antibodies.
– Luke Winkie writes for Vox about the vaccine factions that form online.
More than numbers
To the people who have received the 993 million doses of vaccine distributed so far: thank you.
For the more than 145,098,784 people around the world who have tested positive, may your path to recovery be smooth.
To the families and friends of the 3,077,900 people who have died worldwide (571,001 in the United States), your loved ones are not forgotten.
Rest assured, everyone.