More Americans are now getting vaccinated against coronavirus in the areas worst hit by the virulent delta variant, a potentially hopeful sign as cases continue to soar, public health experts said Thursday.
President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 czar Jeff Zients said more people in the five states with the highest infection rates — Florida, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana and Missouri — are now getting vaccinated on a daily basis than the national average.
“People are feeling the impact of being unvaccinated and taking action,” Zients said at a briefing of the White House coronavirus task force. “Each shot matters each person is a step toward putting this pandemic behind us.”
Republican Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, a pro-Trump stalwart who had refused to get a vaccine until now, got his first vaccine shot last weekend in a sign that fear of illness might be overcoming politically motivated resistance.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky suggested that the efforts of public figures could be a game changer.
“Maybe you’re seeing some of your local officials stepping forward,” Walensky said.
Florida alone accounts for 20% of the cases nationwide, and Missouri and Texas account for another 20%, Zients said.
Almost all the serious cases, including 97% of those hospitalized and 99.5% of deaths, are among unvaccinated people.
“Almost every death from COVID-19 is a preventable tragedy,” Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said.
The public health experts spoke as the delta variant continues to race across the country, especially in areas with low vaccination rates.