As some states face surges of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations spurred by more contagious variants, particularly among younger people, extra pressure weighs on federal health officials’ mission to get more Americans vaccinated.
Regardless of the COVID-19 vaccines’ reported safety and efficacy, many people remain hesitant and distrustful of the shots. Some have claimed the vaccines can make recipients magnetic, shed the coronavirus, trackable by the government or sick with the disease.
But White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci, a long-time opponent of the politicization of the pandemic and vaccines, said to “get over it.”
“This is not complicated. We’re not asking anybody to make any political statement one way or another. We’re saying: try and save your life, and that of your family, and that of the community,” Fauci told MSNBC’s “All In with Chris Hayes” on Wednesday evening. “Here we have a vaccine that’s highly, highly effective in preventing disease and certainly, in preventing severe disease and hospitalization. It’s easy to get, it’s free, and it’s readily available.”
“Get over this political statement. Just get over it and try to save the lives of yourself and your family,” he added.
Fauci’s frustration is due in part to recent spikes in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in states with the largest presence of the delta variant, which is about 60% more contagious than other versions of the virus, though estimates vary.
About a month ago, the delta variant first identified in India made up about 6% of genetically sequenced COVID-19 cases in the U.S.
Now, new national data predicts the variant will make up about 52% of analyzed coronavirus cases in the country by the end of the two-week period ending July 3, replacing the previously dominant alpha variant first found in the U.K.
That’s a jump from about 30% in the two-week period ending June 19, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In some states, such as Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska, the delta variant comprises more than 80% of sequenced coronavirus cases there.
“For the individuals within those areas that don’t want to get vaccinated, it’s going to be very risky from an individual health standpoint, from the country as a whole,” Fauci told MSNBC. “It’s going to prevent us from just completely crushing this outbreak.”
“Where there are high levels of vaccination, there’s low levels of infection, low hospitalization and almost no deaths. Where you have no vaccination, you have higher levels of infection, high risk and hospitalization,” he added.
Fauci said “we’re pretty lucky” in that currently available COVID-19 vaccines offer adequate protection against the variants. But Fauci and other experts warn that the more the virus spreads, “the greater the chance of evolution of yet again, another variant, which we may not be able to handle.”
Nearly 158 million Americans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of July 7, about 48% of the total population, a CDC tracker shows. That includes about 56% of those aged 12 and older and about 58% of adults.