ABC NEWS – Although national coronavirus metrics have been declining rapidly, infections in areas with low vaccination rates persist — a particularly worrisome trend, experts say, as new, and more transmissible variants emerge.
Health experts have been emphatic in their message that the best way to curtail the spread of the highly infectious, and potentially more dangerous, delta variant, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now classifies as a “variant of concern,” is to get fully vaccinated.
“People who are unvaccinated will be at heightened risk in the coming months,” Caitlin M. Rivers, an epidemiologist and senior scholar at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, told ABC News.
A recent ABC News analysis of county-level data from the CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services found that per capita, hospitalization rates are twice as high in counties with the lowest rates of fully vaccinated residents, than in counties with the highest rates of fully vaccinated residents.
Of particular concern are southern states like Alabama, which has the second lowest full vaccination rate in the country and already had a struggling health system prior to the pandemic.
Experts fear outbreaks in the state and region as government officials work to convince hesitant populations to get vaccinated.
While with other variants, a single dose of the vaccine conveyed sufficient protection, one dose of the vaccines only gave 33% protection against symptomatic disease from the delta variant, according to recent data from the U.K., compared to roughly 50% effectiveness against the alpha variant, first identified in the U.K.
Protection rises dramatically with a second dose: another study, just released last week found two doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are 96% effective against hospitalization with the delta variant.
The two doses are also 88% effective against symptomatic disease, compare to 93% effectiveness against the alpha variant.
“If you’re fully vaccinated, you’re protected. But if you’re unvaccinated, you’re at risk of getting seriously ill or spreading the disease to others,” COVID coordinator Jeff Zients said during a briefing at the White House on Thursday … Click here to read more.