JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Twelve days before the Fourth of July goal President Joe Biden had set to have 70% of Americans receive at least their first COVID-19 vaccination, the White House has declared a partial victory.
The administration says more than 70% of Americans age 30 or older have received at least one shot.
With 80% of American’s 65 and above fully vaccinated and 87% having had at least one shot, the overwhelming majority of the nation’s most vulnerable people are fully vaccinated. Cases and deaths from COVID-19 nationwide are at their lowest rates since the earliest days of the coronavirus pandemic.
″The virus is in retreat in communities across the country,” said Jeffrey Zients with the White House Coronavirus Response Team. “We are entering a summer of joy.”
The White House says meeting Biden’s vaccination goal is less important than the pace of the nation’s reopening, which exceeds even the government’s own internal projections.
The Florida Department of Health’s latest report -- from last Friday -- shows 56% of residents 12 and above have had received at least one shot. Nearly 64% of Floridians 30 and above are now vaccinated.
The age group that’s not meeting the administration’s expectations are younger adults -- the age group affected most by the Delta variant of COVID-19.
“The reality is, younger Americans feel COVID doesn’t affect them and they are less likely to get the shot,” Zientz said.
Vermont is the only state to have reached Biden’s initial 70% vaccination target for all Americans at this point, although Massachusetts, Hawaii and Connecticut appear on target to get there by the first week of July. Most of the states with the lowest vaccination rates are in the south, with Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana below 40% of residents with one shot. Georgia was at 42.1% for total vaccinations.
As of Tuesday morning, Florida ranked 22nd out of the 50 states for vaccination rates. And while none of the state’s 67 counties have reached 70%, 10 have vaccination rates above 60%. St. Johns, Flagler and Alachua counties were at or above the state average. Duval County was at 46% as of last Friday. At 27%, Baker County had the second-lowest vaccination rate in the state. Bradford Clay, Columbia, Putnam and Union counties were all at 40% or below.
UF Health’s director of infection prevention, Chad Neilsen said we’re particularly seeing the virus spreading through young people, who are sometimes asymptomatic carriers.
“What we are seeing is a lot of these teens are starting to spread the virus as they resume summer activities, camps, school activities. They’re not vaccinated and you’re seeing less PPE usage in public. Mask-wearing is gone down.”
Neilsen says vaccination rates have flatlined across the United States, especially in the deep south.
“There is a frustration among public health officials because there’s not much more we can do to educate or turn people’s opinions. They have to do it themselves,” Neilsen said.