The light at the end of the tunnel comes more than a year into the pandemic, which has killed over a half-million Americans.
WASHINGTON (CN) — Americans ages 16 and older are eligible to receive a vaccine in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, a significant milestone for public health arriving a week before President Joe Biden’s 100th day in office.
Over 565,000 Americans have died from the novel respiratory virus that began its spread across the globe a little over a year ago. But the White House said Monday its vaccination program is not only “humming,” it is fully accelerating now that every adult is eligible to roll up their sleeves and take their shots.
On an average day, the rate of vaccinations has been steadily rising for a month in the U.S. Where just 2 million Americans per day received a vaccine in March, as of this week, that figure is now closer to 3.2 million people per day vaccinated.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a briefing Monday that the U.S. has now doled out 192.8 million doses of vaccine. This milestone happened during the Biden administration’s first 88 days on the job.
“Almost 40% of our total population has received at least one dose and one out of every four is fully vaccinated,” Walensky said. “This is tremendous progress.”
Among the over 65 set — one of the most vulnerable demographics throughout the ongoing pandemic — the rate has been even better with some 65% receiving at least one shot and over 25% reporting they are “fully vaccinated,” Walensky noted.
But there is still considerable progress to be made as daily infection rates persist.
On average, roughly 67,000 cases of Covid-19 continue to crop up daily, the CDC reports. The U.S. is currently on a weeklong rising infection trend and Walensky said the daily death rate has increased now for six consecutive days, translating to about 700 people killed per day.
“We know vaccines work extra well at prevention but they take some time to kick in,” she added, noting that after inoculation the immune system remains vulnerable to infection for anywhere from two to six weeks following the initial dose.
Maintaining social distancing efforts and mask-wearing continue to be essential for adults as the marathon to vaccinate more Americans plows ahead. The CDC has only received reports of “breakthrough infections,” or those people who still contract Covid-19 despite getting a vaccine, in less than 6,000 cases spanning 43 states.
And among those 6,000 cases, 30% reported no symptoms at all.
“The vaccines are working,” Walensky said. “The efficacy we saw in clinical trials is now being shown in the real world.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical advisor for the White House, emphasized during the briefing that the only through-line to normalcy is by way of vaccination.
People should feel comfortable to trust the “real data not just opinion” about the vaccine, Fauci said Monday.
For example, he said, consider the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
In mid-December, the medical center launched its vaccination program for its 22,234 employees. As of March 25, the infection rate there was just .05%.
A study of the effectiveness of the vaccine among health care personnel and other front-line workers over eight locations from December to March confirmed just three infections in a pool of 78,902 individuals.
With more and more people vaccinated, the hope is that sooner than later the infection rate will go lower and lower, Fauci said.
It’s a simple formula but vaccine hesitancy can create undue obstacles. The best way to cut through that hesitancy is to simply weigh the data: where vaccines are widespread, Covid-19 is not.
Andy Slavitt, the White House senior advisor on its pandemic response, lamented that there were still too many Americans who think getting a vaccine is a complicated process.
“Now it has never been easier if you’re over 16 and you’re very likely to be very close to a vaccination location near you,” Slavitt said.