Apr 9, 2021 - Health

America may be close to hitting a vaccine wall

Data: CDC; Cartogram: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios
Data: CDC; Cartogram: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

There are growing signs that parts of the country may be close to meeting demand for the coronavirus vaccine — well before the U.S. has reached herd immunity.

Why it matters: For the last few months, the primary focus of the U.S. has been getting shots to everyone who wants them, as quickly as possible. Soon, that focus will abruptly shift to convincing holdouts to get vaccinated.

State of play: Red states in the South are administering the lowest portion of the vaccine doses that they receive from the federal government — a sign of low demand, slow public health systems, or both.

  • The most vaccine-reluctant Americans are white Republicans, polling has found.

By the numbers: On average, states have administered 76% of the doses they've received from the federal government. New Hampshire has administered the largest share of all states, at 89.8%, while Alabama has administered the smallest — only 61.4% of its doses.

Driving the news: An analysis released by Surgo Ventures yesterday concluded that "the supply-demand shift for the vaccine will happen earlier than expected — as early as the end of April — and before the nation reaches the 70-90% threshold for achieving herd immunity."

  • It released a survey finding that 59% of U.S. adults say they're either already vaccinated, or plan to be as soon as the shot is made available to them. At the current U.S. vaccination rate, all of those vaccine-enthusiastic adults could be inoculated by the end of April.
  • Vaccination rates will then slow, and Surgo's projections show that only around 52% of Americans will be vaccinated by July. When combined with people who have already been infected, the immunity rate overall may be around 65% by then — still not high enough for herd immunity.

What they're saying: “This analysis shows that despite the general vaccine enthusiasm we are seeing now in the United States, things are going to get really difficult really soon,” said Sema Sgaier, Surgo's CEO.

  • “Without significant investment in addressing people’s barriers and making vaccines available to those below 18, reaching herd immunity will be a real challenge.”

A separate survey of rural Americans, released by KFF this morning, found that while they're more likely to have already been vaccinated than urban and suburban Americans, there are fewer remaining rural residents who are eager to get their shots.

  • 39% have already gotten at least one dose of the vaccine, 16% say they'll get it as soon as possible, and 15% said they want to "wait and see."
  • Another 9% said they'll only get vaccinated if required, and 21% said they definitely won't. In suburban areas, a combined 21% said they were vaccine resistant, and only a combined 16% of urban residents said the same.
  • Among rural residents who said they definitely won't get vaccinated, almost three-quarters were Republicans or Republican-leaning, and 41% were white Evangelical Christians.

The bottom line: Rural, Republican-heavy states are likely blowing through their vaccine-eager populations.

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