President Biden set a goal of having 70% of Americans get one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by July 4. It now appears that we will come in slightly short of that goal as a nation, as Americans will average about 67% of the population having received a single dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by July 4. This is only 3% below the goal set by the president, but it obscures the fact that vaccination rates vary tremendously across the country.
In some states only about 50% of adults have a dose of vaccine whereas in others rates approach 100%. My own state of Michigan is trailing the national average a bit being at approximately 62% this weekend.
In general, however, COVID-19 vaccines have been very effective in suppressing illness and hospitalizations. While there are still patients becoming ill and being hospitalized, these are almost entirely non-vaccinated individuals. This has reduced the burden on most hospitals and healthcare systems tremendously.
There also has been much concern about the Delta variant coronavirus. This variant appears to be easily transmitted, but the more disconcerting news is that it appears that people who were fully immunized could be infected with this virus. It turns out there are a number of caveats around most of the infections.
First, the infections were identified by PCR swab of individuals’ noses. This suggests the presence of virus or at least the ability to carry the virus, but in almost all these cases, none of the individuals was clinically ill. So while vaccinated people may be able to carry the Delta variant coronavirus, it does not make them ill.
Where does this leave unvaccinated people? They are susceptible to this more contagious variant although the data so far has not suggested that it is more dangerous or causes more severe disease. Unfortunately, many of these people had thought that herd immunity from vaccinated individuals would protect them from getting COVID-19. Unfortunately, this doesn’t appear to be true.
Those without a vaccine or previous infection from COVID-19 are still susceptible to the Delta variant, and eve if vaccinated, can still spread that variant to you. This is the worst case scenario for unvaccinated people; they are at risk and are not protected by herd immunity from the vaccinated. Also, since vaccinated individuals don’t get clinically ill with the Delta variant, they won’t even know that they have the potential to spread the virus to unvaccinated colleagues.
Together, this data suggests that on July 4th, vaccinated individuals are remarkably well protected and have no concern from the Delta variant. On the other hand, the Delta variant virus is truly bad news for un-vaccinated individuals since they are no longer protected by herd immunity. The clearest demonstration of this is the fact that not a single death in United States in the past month from coronavirus has been in a completely vaccinated individual.
So more than ever it’s important that everyone gets a COVID-19 vaccine.