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Reproduced from Surgo Ventures; Data: CDC, Surgo Ventures; Note: Vaccination rate indicates the percentage of the state population that is fully vaccinated; Map: Connor Rothschild/Axios

Some states — particularly those in the South — are at much higher risk for bad coronavirus outbreaks not only due to low vaccination rates, but also because their populations were more vulnerable to begin with.

Why it matters: In many ways, the pandemic feels over in the U.S. But in some parts of the country, that feeling may be short-lived, especially as new variants continue to spread.

Driving the news: Although experts are concerned about the growing prevalence of the Delta variant in the U.S., evidence is accumulating that vaccines work well against it.

  • "The Delta variant accounts for a rapidly rising proportion of US cases, and that proportion will continue to grow and could cause clusters and outbreaks, particularly in areas of the country and in demographic groups that have lower vaccination rates," tweeted former CDC director Tom Frieden.
  • The virus will continue to evolve as long as it's given the opportunity to continue spreading around the world.

Between the lines: Certain risk factors, like a high rate of underlying conditions or poor access to health care, make some communities more vulnerable to severe outbreaks than others.

  • Arguably, people who live in these areas would benefit most from vaccination, as they're at highest risk.
  • But that's not what's happening. Instead, some of the most vulnerable states in the country — like Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia — have some of the country's lowest vaccination rates, according to an analysis by Surgo Ventures.

The bottom line: Until vaccines were widely available, Americans suffered through the pandemic together.

  • Going forward, most of the suffering will likely be concentrated among people who remain unvaccinated.

Go deeper

Sep 25, 2021 - Health

We're the architects of our own COVID destiny

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

We're almost certainly going to have to live with the coronavirus, in some form, for the foreseeable future. But what that means will be shaped in large part by what we do now.

Why it matters: More than half of the world — and a substantial portion of Americans — remains unvaccinated. Getting these rates up could mean the difference between the virus becoming a back-burner nuisance, or something that continues to define our lives for years to come.

Sep 25, 2021 - Health

A second flu

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Whatever living with the virus looks like, Delta-level surges aren't considered to be sustainable for the public or the hospitals that will treat the seriously infected.

Why it matters: A major determinant of how seriously we'll take the coronavirus in the future is how many hospitalizations and deaths it's causing — and whether our health system can handle the load.

Sep 25, 2021 - Health

Long COVID: A disabling disease

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Millions of Americans are still suffering from a wide spectrum of symptoms long after they've recovered from their original coronavirus infections, and it's very unclear what the disease's trajectory is — or even how many people are affected.

What we're watching: We still don't have a good grasp on how susceptible vaccinated people are to long COVID. If the condition remains a threat even for the vaccinated, that could shape the risks people are willing to take in the future.