Though federal, state and local governments are continuing to ramp up efforts to combat vaccine hesitancy, a tracker run by The Washington Post projects at least 15 states won’t reach the 70% threshold of vaccinations until next year—if not later—at their current paces of vaccination.
The tracker identifies 14 states with some of the lowest vaccination rates in the country that are on track to reach the target originally set by President Biden for July 4 at some point in 2022 instead.
At least two others—Kansas and Nebraska—are projected to be right on the cusp of hitting the threshold either at the end of 2021 or at the beginning of 2022.
A vast majority are expected to surpass the target in the first few months of 2022, including North Carolina, Mississippi, Wyoming and Missouri in January; Arkansas, Oklahoma and Ohio in February through April; and South Carolina, Montana and Louisiana in May through June.
However, it could take until the second half of the year for four other states—Alabama, Indiana, Michigan and North Dakota—with the latter only projected to reach a 70% partial vaccination rate in September 2022.
All these projected timelines far outpace that of West Virginia, which having seen its inoculation rate plummet since April, is currently on track to reach the target months after even the latest states—in February 2023.
Though this roster is composed of states with low vaccination rates, it isn’t necessarily those with the lowest numbers of residents inoculated that are expected to take the longest. Furthermore, the projections are also influenced by occasional, temporary spikes and dips in states’ individual rollouts. For example, Mississippi has the lowest partial vaccination rate in the country (36.9%), but saw the number of shots administered over the past week more than double to 17,300 per day over the past week, boosting its forecast. While some states may budge in the Post’s tracker, most have been struggling to see any sustained positive shifts in their rollouts since vaccinations began dropping in mid or late April.
Just 18 states and Washington, D.C, surpassed Biden’s July 4 goal—and, notably, all those that did voted for him in the 2020 election. Public health officials have been stressing the importance of hitting a 70% vaccination rate as this is at the lower end of the spectrum of the immunity level that many experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, have suggested could largely stamp out person-to-person transmission in communities. In addition to the incentives, initiatives and more that state and local governments have rolled out over the past few months, the Biden administration has continued to introduce new strategies to reach the remaining vaccine hesitant populations. Earlier this week, the administration announced a plan to go “door-to-door” to encourage vaccinations among targeted communities.
What To Watch For
Vaccinations have been characterized by public health officials as increasingly urgent due to the mounting threat of the delta variant. This more infectious strain of the virus, which has already caused concerning surges in other highly vaccinated countries, now makes up more than 50% of all new cases in the U.S.