Jun 13, 2021 - Health

States with low vaccine rates see drop in COVID cases, but it might not last

Health worker in Mississippi

Health worker at a vaccination clinic in Mississippi. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Although COVID-19 cases are dropping across the country, even in areas that haven't vigorously vaccinated their populations, experts warn the good times may not last, the Associated Press reported Sunday.

The state of play: The declining case numbers could be due to a combination of vaccination, natural immunity in communities where many were already exposed to the virus, and the warmer months allowing people to spend less time cooped up indoors, per AP.

  • Only eight states have seen their case averages increase the past two weeks, and all of these states have vaccination rates below the national average of about 39% being fully vaccinated.
  • On the other hand, the 10 states with the fewest COVID-19 cases per capita are fully vaccinated at rates higher than the national average, per AP.

But, but, but: The good news comes with a catch. Mississippi's case numbers are falling while it has vaccinated only 28% of its population, and about 60% of its population has some form of natural immunity due to previous exposure, per AP.

  • “We certainly are getting some population benefit from our previous cases, but we paid for it,” Thomas Dobbs, Mississippi's State Health Officer told AP. “We paid for it with deaths.”
  • The state has seen 7,300 people die from COVID-19.

The big picture: Natural immunity from the virus due to exposure could prove temporary, Leana Wen, a public health professor at George Washington University, told AP.

  • “Just because we’re lucky in June doesn’t mean we’ll continue to be lucky come the late fall and winter,” said Wen. “We could well have variants here that are more transmissible, more virulent and those who do not have immunity or have waning immunity could be susceptible once again.”

Of note: Vaccination has proven to be a thorny partisan issue. A Sunday CBS poll showed that nearly 30% of Republicans are not planning to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

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