The CDC says more than 129 million Americans have received at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose, or roughly 39.5% of the total US population.
As of Monday, all people in the US 16 years and older will be eligible to receive a vaccine.
“We’re reaching the point where we’re getting to the hard audiences,” said Lori Tremmel Freeman, CEO of the National Association of County and City Health Officials.
“The ones that either are unsure or on the fence about the vaccine, don’t have enough information or are just plain outright… not interested in the vaccine for other reasons,” she said.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN Sunday it was quite frustrating that “a disturbingly large proportion of Republicans” are saying that they don’t want the vaccine.
“They want to be able to say these restrictions that are put on by public health recommendations are things that they’re very concerned about, we’re all concerned about that, we share that concern,” Fauci told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union.” “But the way you get rid of those restrictions is to get as many people vaccinated as quickly and as expeditiously as possible.”
When this happens, “for absolutely certain” the level of virus in the community would go down to the point where the restrictions aren’t needed, he said.
“It’s almost paradoxical that on the one hand they want to be relieved of the restrictions, but on the other hand they don’t want to get vaccinated,” said Fauci. “It just almost doesn’t make any sense.”
J&J vaccine pause
Fauci told CNN that he expected a decision to be made about the vaccine by Friday.
“I don’t want to get ahead of the CDC and the FDA and the advisory committee, but I would imagine that what we will say is that it would come back and it would come back in some sort of either warning or restriction,” he said.
Fauci said pausing was the prudent thing to do, saying “you want to make sure that you have all the information that you need.”
Speaking to CNN Saturday, emergency physician and CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen also said she welcomed the pause.
“I am glad that the pause is happening because it really illustrates that our system is working, that our federal health officials are prioritizing — more than anything else — safety,” Wen said “If they’re willing to hit pause on something that’s less than one in a million, we should be really reassured about their commitment to safety.”
The other two Covid-19 vaccines that have also gotten the green light in the US — Pfizer and Moderna — are not implicated in the pause. And in the coming weeks, it will be key to continue the important messaging about their safety, Wen said, and why Covid-19 vaccinations remain critical.
“We’re doing this because we have a pandemic that’s claimed more than 500,000 lives here in the US,” Wen added.
Fauci warned that even vaccinated Americans needed to continue with other mitigation measures, such as mask wearing.
He told CNN it was possible that someone could be vaccinated but still be infected without any signs of clinical disease. They could then inadvertently transmit the virus to someone who has not been vaccinated.
Variants and breakthrough infections, although they are unusual, are another reason to continue wearing masks, he told CNN.
“We don’t want people to think that you don’t dramatically diminish your risk when you get vaccinated, you absolutely do, the risk is very low, and people will make decisions about what they want to do and it will be a relative risk,” he said.
Surge overwhelming Michigan hospitals
And there are several reasons behind the crisis.
“One, we believe the overall infection rate in Michigan was lower during the pandemic to date,” Beaumont Health CEO John Fox said on CNN Saturday. “Secondly, Michigan opened up recently … with various orders being relieved.”
“Unfortunately, I think people have dropped their infection control issues, they’re not wearing their masks as much as they should, (or) social distancing, hand hygiene,” Fox added.
Fauci told NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday that the most effective way for places like Michigan to deal with big Covid-19 outbreaks was to shut down, rather than to redeploy vaccines from other states.
“The best way when you’re in the middle of a real big outbreak and a big surge is really to shut down things much more so,” Fauci said. “If you take vaccines from other places and move it around, you make that place vulnerable to what’s going on in Michigan. That’s the reason why you’re not seeing a lot of remobilization of vaccines from one state to another.”
And with a big part of the older population vaccinated against the virus, the variant has hit younger groups hard.
“It really is presenting in all of our ERs and frankly in our inpatient units,” Fox said. “We’re treating younger patients than we ever saw before.”
Dr. Wen says she’s worried about what this could mean for Michigan and the US.
Looking ahead, Fauci told ABC’s “This Week” Sunday that it should be clear by fall whether people will need booster shots for Covid-19.
“I believe by the time we get to the end of the summer and the beginning of the fall, we’ll have a pretty good idea whether we definitely or not need to give people boosts and when we need to give it to them,” he told ABC’s Martha Raddatz.
Fauci said that determination would be based on the level of what would be considered a “correlative immunity,” like the level of antibody. “When the slope starts coming down, you could predict when you’re going to get below the safe level or you could start seeing breakthrough infections,” he said.
CNN’s Michael Nedelman, Jen Christensen, Maggie Fox, Virginia Langmaid and Lauren Mascarenhas contributed to this report.