Time and time again – as social distancing, families are forced to live apart and economic turmoil shattered morale – the nation has shown this nightmare is set to end. But the virus does not operate on a human or political timetable. There are now warning signs that troublesome days are ahead, threatening to escalate political tensions at a time that has broken bitter ideological divides.
It all adds up to a serious problem for the White House, which has touted its ability to manage the vaccine rollout and deal with the inherited COVID crisis.
The good news is that the vaccine still has an exceptionally high rate of preventing serious disease and death. So the miracle of COVID-19 vaccines remains intact, as there were long-standing expectations that boosters would be needed. But the latest development suggests it will be imperative to expand a massive government vaccination effort in the future.
It will further complicate the task facing the White House at a time when millions of skeptical Americans are balking at the first round of injections despite the success of the vaccine rollout.
“It’s hard to imagine that we’re going to be able to vaccinate 200 to 300 million people every year for it,” Dr. Zeke Emanuel, a former health policy adviser to President Barack Obama, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.
“It’s going to be a huge challenge. We’re already having difficulty vaccinating people in the states for the first round, imagine doing that every year.”
There is mounting data to show that vaccine holdouts are disproportionately high in states that voted Republican in the last election, underscoring the difficulty of the Democratic White House in raising vaccination rates. A cluster of hot spots, meanwhile, in the southern and southwestern U.S. threaten not only to increase cases among uninfected people, but to act as breeding grounds for new variants that May compromise the effectiveness of existing vaccines.
Increasing cases in almost half the states
With cases rising in the summer, experts worry that the fall and winter months of cold weather could lead to a further increase in cases, deaths and overloading of already exhausted hospital staff. While a new national crisis is unlikely, severe regional outbreaks could revive the need for shutdowns, masking and social distancing – and bring all the political tensions that come with such measures.
“By the end of summer, beginning of fall, some of those places with below-average vaccination rates are going to be in full growth mode,” said Dr. Jonathan Renner, a professor of medicine at George Washington University. told CNN’s John King on “Inside Politics.” “No more epidemics are going to be seen in other parts of the United States.”
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Valensky said at a White House COVID-19 briefing on Thursday that “99.5% of COVID-19 deaths in the United States were among uninsured people.”
“Those deaths could have been prevented with a simple, safe shot,” Valensky said.
The notion that millions of Republican voters are calling West Virginia GOP Gov. Jim Justice the “death lottery” was given fresh credence by a new report released Thursday by the Kaiser Family Foundation, which showed a wide discrepancy in vaccination rates between counties. Voted for Biden and those who voted Republican then-President Donald Trump last November.
In April, the Trump nation’s average vaccination rate was 20.6%, compared to 22.8% in the Biden region. As of July, the respective rates were 35% and 46.7%, a 9.5 percent increase in the difference.
The message of such data is clear: the nation’s hopes of eradicating COVID-19 may depend on the willingness of Republicans to change their minds about vaccines.
This group is least likely to be convinced by Biden’s appeal to take the shot and distrust the government. It is more likely to be influenced by misinformation about the vaccine program that circulates on conservative media and social media networks.
Biden requests holdouts to get vaccinated
The White House has announced new ways to reach people reluctant to vaccinate, including a greater reliance on general practitioners and pediatricians to reach young people over the age of 12 who are eligible to be vaccinated. It has also sent rapid-response teams to areas where the virus is particularly widespread and where vaccine reluctance is high.
In recent days, officials – including Biden and the government’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci – have been on television calling for people to take their shots.
“Please get vaccinated now. It works. It’s free. And it’s never been easier, and it’s never been more important,” Biden said on Tuesday.
“Do it now – for yourself and the people you care about; for your neighborhood; for your country. It sounds ludicrous, but it’s a matter of patriotism.”
But some public health experts now think a more drastic approach may be needed – even if the slightest suggestion of mandating vaccines would spark conservative opinion. Right-wing pro-Trump Republicans such as Reps Marjorie Taylor Green of Georgia and Lauren Boebert of Colorado have already this week compared Biden’s vaccine teams to Nazis.
Former Baltimore health commissioner Dr. Lena Wayne told CNN on Thursday that the administration should try to change its tone — and begin emphasizing that mass vaccinations in personal and professional settings represent the best way to stay healthy. does.
“The federal government needs to be clear that vaccines are not just about the person right now. There seems to be a message coming from the Biden administration that if you are vaccinated you are safe,” she said, noting that There was no such line taking into account people who remain immunized or have the potential for successful infection.
Wayne said such an adjustment could persuade more businesses, schools and workplaces to implement their own vaccine mandates and encourage a broader effort to vaccinate as many Americans as possible.
His argument goes to the most challenging aspect of this new phase of the crisis, which, while far less serious than it once was, also has a long way to go.
“At the moment our problem isn’t, ‘Can Pfizer make a vaccine?’ said Emmanuel. “The problem is, ‘Will Americans take it?’ “