Five low-vaccinated hot spots putting US at risk as Delta spreads

Biden administration is sending officials to places like Missouri where infection rates are increasing

Danielle Zoellner
New York
Friday 09 July 2021 12:34
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Biden makes remarks on US vaccination program

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Researchers have identified five undervaccinated areas in the United States where Covid-19 cases have been surging, as experts warn about the growing threat from the highly contagious Delta variant.

An analysis by researchers from Georgetown University identified 30 clusters across the country that have low vaccination rates compared to their population sizes. Within those clusters, there were five hot spots across the South and lower Midwest that were experiencing a rise in infection rates.

This included portions of Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas.

“These clusters of unvaccinated people are what is standing in the way of us putting this virus down permanently,” said Dr Jonathan Reiner, a CNN medical analyst and professor of medicine and surgery at George Washington University, when speaking to CNN.

Given the rise of the Delta variant, which data shows could be 60 per cent more contagious than the original Alpha variant, experts have warned that infection surges could continue in areas with low vaccination rates.

The five clusters of concern identified by Georgetown researchers are home to 15 million Americans. Of those residents, just 27.9 per cent were fully vaccinated against Covid-19, which was significantly less than the national rate of 47.6 per cent fully vaccinated.

Southwest Missouri, specifically, has become a location of concern for the federal government.

Over the past week, Missouri’s Covid-19 infection rates have become the second highest in the nation, with approximately 96 per cent of those cases due to the Delta variant.

Arkansas has the highest Covid-19 infection rate for the country.

The vaccination rates were low in the two states compared to the national average, with Missouri at 39.4 per cent of its population fully vaccinated, while Arkansas had just 34.6 per cent fully vaccinated, according to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In response to the rise of the Delta variant, the Biden administration announced it would deploy teams of officials from the CDC, the Department of Health and Human Resources (HHS), and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to areas with high transmission and low vaccination rates – including a team going directly to Missouri.

CDC Director Dr Rochelle Walensky said the agency was seeing some “new and concerning trends” with the Delta variant, when speaking during a White House Covid Response Team press conference on Thursday.

“The Delta variant is spreading rapidly throughout the country. This week the Delta variant is estimated to be the most prevalent variant in the United States, representing over 50 per cent of sequenced samples from across the country – up from 26 per cent from the week ending 19 June,” Dr Walensky said.

“In some parts of the country, the percentage is even higher,” she added.

Many of the areas of concern had low vaccination rates, as cases and hospitalisations increased.

“Although we expected the Delta variant to become the dominant strain in the United States, this rapid rise is troubling,” Dr walensky said. “We know that the Delta variant has increased transmissibility and its surging in pockets of the country with low vaccination rates.”

She encouraged people to get their vaccine if they have yet to do so, as current data indicated that the available jabs prevented severe disease and illness in vaccinated individuals.

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