Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases and President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, stated over the weekend that vaccines were working to help eliminate the threat of COVID-19 to the general public, citing statistics on deaths currently associated with the virus to prove his point.
Since the pandemic began, more than 605,000 Americans have died from coronavirus. The rate of deaths has fallen significantly since vaccines became available earlier this year. In June 2021, there were about 10,200 deaths. For comparison, in June 2020, closer to the start of the pandemic in the U.S., the number of deaths were almost double that number with 19,700 Americans succumbing to the coronavirus then.
Last month’s numbers also pale in comparison to how many perished at the height of the crisis, in January 2021, when around 97,200 Americans died in just one month.
As the rate of COVID deaths has slowed significantly, Fauci sought to give coronavirus vaccines their due credit on Sunday during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program, noting that most of those who are dying now are people who have not received their vaccinations.
“If you look at the number of deaths, about 99.2 percent of them are unvaccinated,” Fauci explained to host Chuck Todd. “About 0.8 percent are vaccinated.”
“No vaccine is perfect,” Fauci, who is also the director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said, “but when you talk about the avoidability of hospitalization and death, Chuck, it’s really sad and tragic that most, all of these are avoidable and preventable.”
Fauci added that “there are going to be some people … you’ll see some who are vaccinated and still get into trouble and get hospitalized and die.” But the best way to combat the virus and prevent one’s own chances of getting infected is to get vaccinated, he insisted.
“The overwhelming proportion of people who get into trouble are the unvaccinated. Which is the reason why we say this is really entirely avoidable and preventable,” Fauci explained.
While news of the vaccine working for millions of Americans is great, there are worrisome trends starting to come about. The rate of new cases being reported daily is up by 5 percent from where it was just two weeks ago, and the number of Americans who are fully vaccinated remains below 50 percent at this time.
Polling also indicates that there are still challenges in getting people vaccinated. According to an Economist/YouGov poll from late June, 19 percent of Americans say they absolutely will not get vaccinated while another 11 percent say they are unsure about doing so — meaning there’s a potential that 30 percent of the general population won’t ever get protected against the virus.
That’s reaching the low end for what experts say is needed to achieve herd immunity against COVID-19, but it might not be enough. Many more Americans may needlessly be harmed by the virus because of vaccine hesitancy.
Several localities throughout the U.S. are also seeing higher rates of hesitancy than others, which means those places will be more impacted by the refusal of some to get vaccinated (22 states are currently below a rate of 50 percent of residents receiving at least one dose of a vaccine, for example).
Many have suggested that the hesitancy to get vaccinated is politics-based, as data has demonstrated that supporters of former President Donald Trump are less likely to get their shots than are supporters of Biden. Indeed, as MSNBC senior producer Kyle Griffin pointed out, the 2020 presidential election map seems to be a fairly accurate indicator of where vaccine hesitant residents are more likely to live.
“Of the 19 states (including DC) that have already hit 70% of adults with at least one vaccine dose, Joe Biden carried every single one in 2020,” Griffin tweeted over the weekend. “And of the 17 states that have yet to surpass even 60%, Trump won them all with one exception: Georgia.”