Unvaccinated people now account for the vast majority of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S., according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
More than two-thirds of adults in the U.S. have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, the CDC says, but there are still about 154 deaths due to the virus per day. “Preliminary data from several states over the last few months suggests that 99.5% of deaths from COVID-19 in the United States were in unvaccinated people,” CDC director Rochelle Walensky, M.D., M.P.H., said in a White House press briefing. “Those deaths were preventable with a simple, safe shot.” In Maryland, for instance, all 130 people who died due to COVID-19 in June were unvaccinated, CNN reports.
Dr. Walensky explained that, of the 173 counties in the U.S. with the highest amount of COVID-19 cases over the last week, nearly all of them have low vaccination rates (below 40%). “These counties are where more than 9 million Americans live and work, and are the locations in the country where we are seeing the increased hospitalizations and deaths among unvaccinated individuals,” she said, adding that these counties also tend to have a high level of the contagious delta coronavirus variant circulating.
The combination of low vaccination rates, reduced use of public health tools (like masks and social distancing), and the presence of the delta variant “will certainly and sadly lead to more unnecessary suffering, hospitalizations, and potentially death,” Dr. Walensky said. On the other hand, areas of the country where vaccination rates are higher and there are fewer COVID-19 cases in the community are “getting back to normal,” she said. Vaccines are crucial to getting back some sense of normalcy in more of the country as well as preventing COVID-19 deaths.
The vaccines we have access to in the U.S. appear to be effective at preventing symptomatic illness, hospitalizations, and death due to COVID-19—and still provide significant protection from the delta variant, Anthony Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in the press briefing. He cited several recent studies that showed a full course of the Pfizer mRNA vaccine is 88% effective against symptomatic infections from the delta variant and 96% effective against hospitalizations. “Please get vaccinated,” he said. “It will protect you against the surging of the delta variant.”
But not everyone can get vaccinated yet, including young kids. So, as Dr. Fauci advised previously, it’s on those around them to get the vaccine in order to protect everyone. “Turning the corner on this pandemic, getting back to normal, and stopping the delta variant requires all of us to do our part and to get vaccinated,” Dr. Walensky said.