The delta surge ravaging a number of Southern states may also be pushing more people to get COVID-19 vaccinations.
The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show new COVID-19 cases at a seven-day average of about 100,000 daily, up from about 17,000 a month ago. New hospitalizations have increased from just over 2,100 per day in early July to 9,300 in early August.
On the other hand, the nationwide pace of vaccinations has also picked up during that same time. The seven-day average of vaccinations was about 452,000 on July 5. By Aug. 5, that rose to about 608,000 — an increase of 34%.
The two trends are likely related.
“I think part of the reason is that people hear more and more about the delta variant, that it is much more transmissible,” said Susanne Straif-Bourgeois, a professor of epidemiology at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center. “They see continuously on the news, at least in Louisiana, that our hospitals are over capacity … I think people start to worry that they might be turned away at the ER because the hospital is full.”
It’s not just Louisiana.
"Our hospitals are filling up with patients that are unvaccinated. We’re to the point now that we are canceling surgeries and procedures," said Dr. Sarah Nafziger, vice president for clinical support services at the University of Alabama-Birmingham Medicine. "We are rapidly getting to the point where we will not be able to provide emergency services for life-threatening conditions."
In the last month, COVID-19 hospitalizations have risen from about 250 to over 1,800 in Alabama and from about 330 to over 2,200 in Louisiana, according to the CDC. But the rate of vaccination has also increased, from 4,800 to 13,400 in Alabama per day and roughly 5,100 to over 16,000 in Louisiana.
Nafziger said the clinics at the UAB Hospital have seen daily vaccinations rise from about 20-25 people a month ago to 200-250 now. She suggested that the rise in inoculations was driven by people who realized the vaccine was safe or that the consequences of contracting COVID-19 were real.
“I think a lot of people see their friends and family get vaccinated, and they realize they did just fine. I think that has been encouraging to some people to get vaccinated,” Nafziger said. “For others, they know someone who had COVID and who had horrible complications or passed away. That has been very moving for a lot of people who did not want to get the vaccine.”
Other states that have been hard hit by the delta variant — such as Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, and Texas — have also seen increases in vaccination rates.
Nafziger suggested the vaccination increase was also due to parents wanting their children ages 12-17 vaccinated as the school year approached.
But Will Humble, executive director for the Arizona Public Health Association and former director at the Arizona Department of Health Services, disagreed with that.
“If you look at the age distribution in Arizona, the kids are not accounting for the increase,” Humble said. “There are increases in all of the age groups.”
Data from Arizona State University show the increase in vaccinations for those under age 20 rose at the same rate as all age groups over the last month.
It also shows that vaccinations aren't just rising in states hit hard with the delta variant. Vaccinations in Arizona have increased from a seven-day average of about 9,000 a month ago to about 12,000 today.
It is unclear how long the current increase will last.
“Human behavior is too unpredictable for me to predict anything,” Humble said. “I hope it continues and even picks up steam.”
Straif-Bourgeois was hopeful the rise in vaccinations would continue, but she did not think it would increase quickly enough.
“I’m worried that people won’t be getting vaccinated fast enough, and so, maybe in the future, we will have a new variant that will be worse than the delta variant,” she said.
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Original Author: David Hogberg
Original Location: Delta surge drives rise in COVID-19 vaccinations