Twenty states have reached the Biden administration’s goal to partially vaccinate 70% of American adults by the Fourth of July as the Delta variant spreads and people gather for holiday celebrations across the country.
White House officials acknowledged last month that they would fall short of their goal, which was set in early May when the US was vaccinating people at a much faster pace than it is now.
The US reached its highest vaccination rate in mid-April when the seven-day average of doses administered daily topped 3.3 million. At that time, 1.8 million new people became fully vaccinated each day.
But that rate was not sustained, dropping to a seven-day average of 1,121,064 doses given per day as of Saturday. About 685,472 people are becoming fully vaccinated daily.
However, the administration did come close to its goal of vaccinating 160 million adults by the holiday – 157 million adults were fully vaccinated as of Saturday, federal data shows.
“As a nation, as a whole, we are doing very well,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday.
The Delta variant, which is highly contagious and causes even more severe illness, has been spreading so rapidly in some areas that officials brought back their mask guidance even if people are fully vaccinated.
“There are some states where the level of vaccination of individuals is 35% or less,” Fauci said. “Under those circumstances, you might expect to see spikes in certain regions, in certain states, cities or countries. I don’t think you are going to be seeing anything nationwide, because fortunately we have a substantial proportion of the population vaccinated. So it’s going to be regional.”
Health officials in Los Angeles County suggested last week that people in the county should wear masks while in public indoor spaces, regardless of their vaccination status.
After California relaxed most of its Covid-19 restrictions on June 15, the state’s Covid-19 test positivity rate doubled from 0.7% at the time to 1.5% on July 2, state health data shows. The Delta variant represents 36% of all new Covid-19 cases in California, and that number is expected to rise, a state health officer said Friday.
Health experts and studies have said the Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are highly effective in protecting people from severe illness and hospitalizations related to Covid-19 and some of its dangerous variants.
Yet Barbara Ferrer, who heads Los Angeles County’s Public Health Department, told CNN Saturday the county’s new mask guidance is an extra precaution against the rise of Covid-19 cases there.
“There are lots of settings where even though we know that the vaccines provide powerful protection to those who are vaccinated, the slight risk that a vaccinated person could shed enough virus to infect somebody else, coupled with just creating less and less risk in those settings where there are many unvaccinated people, makes it a prudent tool that I think has its place in this full reopening that we’ve done in LA County,” Ferrer said.
She added that the county is not requiring people to wear masks.
“We just made a strong recommendation, if you’re indoors, in a setting where you don’t know everybody else’s vaccination status … it is best at this point to prevent another surge here in LA County by having everyone in those settings, where it could be crowded and you’re indoors, often with poor ventilation, to keep those face coverings on,” she said.
California is one of 19 states to have fully vaccinated more than half its population. The other 18 are: Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington state, as well as Washington, DC.
Expert says full FDA vaccine approval could influence vaccine hesitancy
Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency physician at Brown University and CNN medical analyst, said Saturday that full approval of vaccines from the US Food and Drug Administration will help get more people vaccinated.
“I think that getting full approval will make a big difference. It will overcome that hesitancy or lack of confidence of a segment of our population,” she said.
Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech have begun their applications for full approval from the FDA. Johnson & Johnson has said it intends to file a Biologics License Application, but had not yet done so as of Friday.
Pfizer and Moderna requested priority review, which asks the FDA to take action within six months, compared to the 10 months under standard review. Goal dates have not yet been announced.
“I wish the FDA would move faster,” Ranney said, referring to the approval process. “Full FDA approval process normally does take months, but they’ve already looked at the preliminary data. It’s not that much more.”
A recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey shows 31% of adults who have yet to get vaccinated would be more likely to get a vaccine that is fully approved by the FDA. About 20% of adults who have not been vaccinated said it’s because they believe the vaccine is too new.
Fauci said during a White House Covid-19 briefing on Thursday it would be “most unusual” for the FDA to refuse full approval for coronavirus vaccines being used under emergency use authorization.
“You never want to get ahead of the FDA, but it would really be a most unusual situation not to see this … get full approval,” Fauci said. “I believe it’s going to happen.”
Pandemic-era travel record broken at start of holiday weekend
The number of people traveling by air hit a new pandemic-era record Friday as people are on the move for the Fourth of July weekend.
The Transportation Security Administration said it screened 2,196,411 people at airports across the country, the highest number since the start of the pandemic.
According to the TSA, that number is higher than the same day in 2019 before the pandemic, when the TSA screened 2,184,253 passengers.
AAA anticipates 47.7 million people will travel by road and air from July 1 to July 5, a 40% increase over Independence Day travel last year and the second-highest travel volume on record.
CNN’s Nadia Kounang, Pete Muntean, Deidre McPhillips, Jamie Gumbrecht, Cheri Mossburg, Natasha Chen, Kevin Conlon, Deanna Hackney and Maggie Fox contributed to this report.