COVID-19 vaccination efforts may begin to slow down as more Americans get vaccinated, an official told CNN on Sunday.
More than 42% of the US population has gotten at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Roughly 28.5% of the population is fully vaccinated.
“We’re going continue to make progress, it might not be as fast as the first 50% (of the population vaccinated), I think that it’s going to be slower. But I think we’re going to continue to get there,” said Andy Slavitt, White House senior adviser for COVID-19 response.
Experts say the US is facing some major challenges when it comes to getting more shots into arms, including vaccine hesitancy.
While the country is still nowhere near widespread levels of protection, some areas have already begun to see a slowing demand for vaccines. By next month, vaccine enthusiasm will likely reach a “tipping point” and efforts to encourage COVID-19 vaccinations will become much harder, a recent report found.
Many Americans who haven’t started their vaccinations yet “are still not sure that they want to take part in this amazing opportunity to put this virus behind us,” National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins recently told CNN.
What a gradual return to normal will look like
Experts including Dr. Anthony Fauci estimate between 70% to 85% of the country needs to be immune to the virus — either through previous infection or from vaccination — to suppress its spread.
But even before hitting those percentages, the country will reach a point where COVID-19 cases will begin going down dramatically as more people get vaccinated, Fauci said.
But it’s not there yet.
“Right now, we’re averaging about 60,000 cases per day,” Fauci told CNN on Sunday. “As we get lower and lower and lower, you’re going to be seeing a gradual diminution of the restrictions and a more progressive moving towards normality.”
It will be a gradual return to normal, as Americans can begin enjoying outdoor activities, travel, sporting events, theaters and restaurants “little by little,” Fauci said.
The country’s seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases is going down, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky reported last week. And there’s a big reason why the decline could stick this time, said former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb.
“The past trends, when we saw cases start to decline, we were somewhat skeptical because we knew a lot of those declines were a result of behavioral changes, people pulling back more, taking more precautions and then as soon as we sort of let our guard down, we saw cases surge again,” he said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
“Right now, the declines that we’re seeing we can take to the bank,” Gottlieb added. “I think we could feel more assured because they’re being driven by vaccinations and greater levels of population-wide immunity — not just from vaccination but also from prior infection.”
More guidance could be coming
“In the next few days very likely, the CDC will be coming out with updating their guidelines of what people who are vaccinated can do and even some who are not vaccinated,” he told CNN.
While the COVID-19 safety risks appear to be much lower outdoors, it’s still important to consider several factors when deciding whether to mask up or not, one expert said.
“You do have to consider the rate of viral transmission in your community, the vaccination rates in your community and what kind of outdoor setting you’re in,” Dr. Richina Bicette of the Baylor College of Medicine told CNN Sunday. “A packed concert where people are shoulder-to-shoulder is going to be riskier than an outdoor volleyball game where you have a large area and people spread apart.”
Some Americans are missing their second shots
As more shots are making it into arms, a growing number of Americans seem to be missing their scheduled second dose, according to data from the CDC.
About 3.4% had missed that second appointment back in March. About 8% of Americans have missed it now, the data show.
But it’s not an exact count.
If a person got their two COVID-19 vaccine doses from different reporting entities — for example, first from a state-run clinic and then from a local health clinic — the two doses may not have been linked together, a CDC spokeswoman said.
Confidence in J&J vaccine fell before pause lifted
Confidence in the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine lowered after a pause was put in place by the CDC and FDA, according to a poll released Monday by ABC and the Washington Post.
The poll was conducted April 18 to 21, before the pause was lifted Friday, and involved a random national sample of 1,007 US adults. Upon lifting the pause, the agencies planned to update the J&J vaccine label to warn of blood clot risks, they said.
“Fewer than half of Americans see the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine as safe and barely more than a fifth of those not yet vaccinated would be willing to take it,” found the poll, even though overall intentions to get vaccinated have risen since January.
The poll found that 73% of unvaccinated respondents said that they were unwilling to get the J&J vaccine and 41% said that it was very or somewhat unsafe.
That left 22% of unvaccinated respondents who said they would be willing to get J&J’s vaccine if it were put back in use.
The number of respondents who saw the J&J vaccine as very or somewhat safe was 46%, compared with 71% who saw the Moderna vaccine as safe and 73% who viewed the Pfizer vaccines as safe.
The two-dose mRNA vaccines made by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna are made using different technology from Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine and have not been linked to rare cases of blood clots.
Fauci: US has ‘moral responsibility’ to help India
Meanwhile, the Defense Department will provide support to India for its COVID-19 response, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced Sunday.
Austin directed the department to use “every resource at our disposal” to provide the needed materials to India’s frontline health care workers, he said. His statement followed news that the Biden administration will deploy more supplies and support to India as the country battles a violent spike in COVID-19 cases.
The US has a “moral responsibility” to help India and the rest of the world to fight the pandemic, Fauci told CNN on Sunday.
“The United States and India are the two countries now that have suffered the most. They’ve been allies of ours. They’ve been people that we have over the decades and decades had strong collaboration and cooperation with.”
“Getting them vaccinations is certainly on the table” and being discussed as a possibility, Fauci said Sunday.
Helping India matters to the US for several reasons, US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy told MSNBC on Sunday.
“First and foremost because we are human beings and we should care about what happens to other human beings around the world,” Murthy said.
Secondly, he said, the uncontrolled spread of the virus in other parts of the world increases the chances of further mutations and variants of the coronavirus that could eventually pose a problem to vaccines, he said.
“And that means that those viruses, those mutant viruses, those new variants, could travel here to the US and cause real challenges here,” he added.