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lllustration: Trent Joaquin/Axios

Getting more Americans vaccinated should be important to the majority of American adults who have already gotten the shot, experts say.

Why it matters: Beyond the philosophical considerations, public health experts say there are direct impacts — including the risk of breakthrough cases, new variants and economic pullbacks.

"The key thing that keeps getting lost is that this matters to the vaccinated," said Leana Wen, an emergency physician and public health professor at George Washington University.

The first concern is for the immediate health of the unvaccinated, as well as the pressure that caring for them puts on local health systems.

  • "Hospitalization and deaths in the U.S. are going back up. We can see the actual impact of it right now," said Jen Kates, KFF's senior vice president and director of global health and HIV policy.
  • "We're seeing a lot of nurses with compassion fatigue, and I am really scared how that is going to play out because a lot of the cases we're seeing are in non-vaccinated individuals," one western Arkansas nurse told CNN.

Breakthrough infections — infections in vaccinated people — are still rare, and few are life-threatening, but COVID-19's continued circulation makes them more probable, and it will also help give rise to new variants.

  • The more people COVID can infect, the higher the possibility of new variants that are more transmissible, deadly or even able to evade the defense of our vaccines.

Zoom in: Vermont is a successful U.S. model, said Eric Topol, director and founder of the Scripps Research Translational Institute.

  • It has one of the highest vaccination rates in the country, and hospitalizations have been going down, even amid the nationwide surge caused by the Delta variant.
  • "Other people, those without prior-COVID or who aren't vaccinated, are protected because COVID can't find them," Topol said.
  • But in the U.S. more broadly, he said, the opposite model is happening. "Instead of how it was supposed to work, [the unvaccinated] are infecting the vaccinated because it's such a highly transmissible version of the virus," Topol said.

What's next: With millions of Americans, including children, still unvaccinated amid the spread of Delta, some experts fear that the rebound in COVID cases could slow economic growth.

  • In a recent note to investors, Bank of America economists Stephen Juneau and Anna Zhou said the Delta variant is expected to lead to a shift in consumer behavior such as a “sharp pullback in services spending,” Insider reported.
  • They pointed to Michigan, which did not tighten its restrictions during a surge in COVID cases earlier this year, but still saw consumer spending decrease as fewer consumers dined out.

The bottom line: Springfield, Missouri-based CoxHealth had less than 20 patients hospitalized for COVID in mid-May, but had 160 patients last week.

  • "It just skyrocketed over the past few weeks, and projections show it's probably going to get worse," said Kaitlyn McConnell, a spokesperson for CoxHealth.
  • "I don't think there's ever a point where we're going to stop trying to educate people" about getting the vaccine, she said, "even if sometimes you wonder if you'll change minds."

Go deeper

Oct 16, 2021 - Health

Pope Francis calls on companies to release COVID vaccine patents

Pope Francis. Photo: Massimo Valicchia/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Pope Francis called on pharmaceutical companies on Saturday to release patents to make COVID-19 vaccines more accessible to the poor, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: There is a stark divide between countries that have access to COVID-19 shots and those that don't, and the gap has widened as some wealthier countries have begun distributing third doses.

Hollywood union reaches deal with studios to avert strike

Photo: AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

A Hollywood workers' union reached a tentative deal with studios, networks and streamers that will guarantee better working conditions, meal breaks and increased wages for low-paid workers, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) announced Saturday night.

Why it matters: The deal, which still needs to be ratified by IATSE members, will avert a nationwide strike by film and television workers that was set to start Monday. It would have been the first strike in the union's 128-year history.

Bill Clinton released from hospital following treatment for non-COVID infection

Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Former President Bill Clinton was discharged from the University of California, Irvine Medical Center on Sunday, nearly a week after he was admitted for a non-COVID-related infection, according to his spokesperson Angel Ureña.

What they're saying: "His fever and white blood cell count are normalized and he will return home to New York to finish his course of antibiotics," wrote Dr. Alpesh Amin, who has been overseeing the team of doctors treating Clinton. "On behalf of everyone at UC Irvine Medical Center, we were honored to have treated him and will continue to monitor his progress."

Worth noting: Clinton had a urinary tract infection that spread to his bloodstream, per CNN.

  • The California-based medical team had been administering IV antibiotics and fluids, and was in constant communication with Clinton's New York team, including his cardiologist, according to the former president's physicians.
  • President Biden spoke by phone with Clinton on Friday to see how he was doing, and the catch-up included a discussion of recent politics.